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Mother And Daughter Form Soldiers' Bond In Iraq

Marilyn Gonzalez (left) and her daughter, Jessica Pedraza, at their base in Kuwait in 2010. (Courtesy of Jessica Pedraza)

Sgt. Marilyn Gonzalez and her daughter, Spc. Jessica Pedraza, served together in Kuwait and Iraq from January until December of 2010. But they weren't both supposed to go then.

They were in the Massachusetts Army National Guard, in the same company.

In 2010, Gonzalez was ordered to deploy to Iraq, but her daughter was not. Pedraza decided to put college on hold and changed her job in the military so that she would be sent to war with her mom. The unit didn't need supply specialists, but it did need a truck driver.

"When you told me that you wanted to deploy, I was so angry," Gonzalez, now 44, tells her daughter.

But Pedraza, now 22, says she couldn't stay home worrying.

"Whenever I would go out on a mission, you would go in my room and make my bed," she says, "and sometimes you would come back from your missions and catch me sleeping on your bed."

Gonzalez says she was teased, "but it was hard not to be a mom." She had to fight the urge to hug her daughter every time she saw her.

Pedraza would kiss her mom on the cheek and rush away, saying, "I love you, Mom." One day she said it on the radio.

"I said, 'Roger, I love you.' And I remember, somebody interrupted and they were like, 'Hey, none of that over the radio!' And then I heard you just say it right back," Pedraza says.

Gonzalez says she could never express how much it meant that her daughter was willing to put her life on the line for them to be together. Pedraza knows her mom was upset at first that she chose to pass up college acceptances.

"But I think that we have the mother and daughter bond, and we have a soldiers' bond," she says. "There's just nothing more you can ask for."

Both are still active in the Massachusetts Army National Guard.

Audio produced for Weekend Edition Saturday by Anita Rao with Yasmina Guerda.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Time now to check in with StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative. We're hearing highlights from this project each month.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Today, the story of a mother and daughter who served together in Iraq. Sergeant Marilyn Gonzalez and her daughter, Specialist Jessica Pedraza, were both in the Massachusetts Army National Guard and both in the same company, but they had different jobs. In 2010, Marilyn was ordered to deploy to Iraq; Jessica was not. So Jessica decided to put college on hold, and changed her job in the military so that she would be sent to war with her mother.

SGT. MARILYN GONZALEZ: When you told me that you wanted to deploy, I was so angry.

SPC. JESSICA PEDRAZA: I couldn't be the person who had to stay home and worry about you being away. I couldn't do it. And whenever I would go out on a mission, you would go in my room and make my bed. And sometimes, you would come back from your missions and catch me sleeping on your bed.

GONZALEZ: I hope you know they used to tease me, but it was hard not to be mom. Every time I saw you, I wanted to just go up and hug you. And I couldn't do it.

PEDRAZA: I just remember, I always had to, like, sneak and kiss you on the cheek and run. Mom, I love you.

GONZALEZ: Like that day that you said it on the radio.

PEDRAZA: I said, Roger, I love you. And I remember somebody interrupted and they were like, hey, none of that over the radio. And then I heard you just say it right back.

GONZALEZ: Well, I just want to say that you were willing to put your life on the line, to be there with me. I could never tell you how much that means to me.

PEDRAZA: You know, I know that in a way, you were kind of upset at the fact that I chose to do what I did; and give up six college acceptances that I had, to do this with you. But I think that we have the mother and daughter bond, and we have a soldiers' bond, and it's just - nothing more you could ask for.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Spc. Jessica Pedraza and her mother, Sgt. Marilyn Gonzalez, at StoryCorps, remembering how they served together in Iraq, in 2010. They're both still active in the Massachusetts Army National Guard. They recorded their conversation in Rockland, Massachusetts, as part of the StoryCorps Military Voices Initiative. Like all StoryCorps interviews, theirs will be archived at the U.S. Library of Congress. To get the StoryCorps podcast, you can visit npr.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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