Ash follows in the military footsteps of his family

Family and friends gather around Jared Ash as they say farewell before he leaves for basic training. Seen here are (front, L to R) Christopher Podniestrzanski, Jackie Ash, Leo Ash, Andrew Johnson, Jared Ash, Jenean Podniestrzanski, Marge Podniestrzanski, Kathy Ash, Kym Howie, Victoria Ash, Tanya Payson, Justin Richards, (back) Russell Richards, Melissa Ash, Michael Paul, Nicky Paul, Sam Ash, Sr., Sam Ash, Jr., Thomas Ash, and Ed Howie. Photo by Candice Monhollan

If you closed your eyes as you approached the party by the old stone house outside of Phoenixville on the night of Saturday, June 17, it felt like a step back in time.

The music of Glen Miller and the Big Band & Swing era floated on the warm June air as family and friends came to celebrate Jared Ash before he heads to basic training on July 1.

What makes this more special is the fact Ash comes from a family full of military veterans.

“It was a continuation of my father’s beliefs to serve the country, be a good citizen and to participate,” said Thomas Ash, Jared’s great uncle. “It’s five generations that I’ve been exposed to (joining the military). It’s amazing.”

Fresh out of high school, Jared joins the likes of his cousin uncle, great uncle, grandfather, and great grandfather – just to name a few.

Jared had thoughts about following in his family’s footsteps, but it was not until his cousin, Staff Sgt. Russell Richards, planted the idea in his head.

“In my 11th grade year, that was when my cousin asked me if I’d like to join,” Jared Ash said. “I hadn’t made up my mind which branch I wanted to join.”

Richards, who has been in the National Guard for 12 years, started as a recruiter about a year ago.

“It’s the same thing with all high schoolers,” Richards said. “They have that inkling and you just grab them and let them know, ‘Hey, this is what you wanted to do a little a bit, right? Yeah. Well, you’re doing it now.’”

With the family history Jared has, he’s been able to get plenty of tips on what to do and how to stay out of trouble.

One such tip which Richards has supplied comes in the form of getting letters from home.

“You’re not supposed to open your mail at unauthorized times,” Richards said. “I got a birthday card that made noise and I opened it up when I wasn’t supposed to. The noise got me told on and then everybody had to do pushups because of that.”

It is a story which has passed around the family and may have been slightly altered by the time it reached Jared.

“I’ve heard stories where every time you get a letter, before you can read it, you have to do 10 pushups,” Jared said. “If I’m getting 50 letters a week, it’s going to be good for me, but it’s going to kill me.”

Despite all the playful jabs, Jared’s family – most dressed in camouflage clothing for the party – knows this is a bittersweet moment. The worry is always there, but they are also delighted to have another military member in their ranks.

“I’m proud of him and a little nervous, too,” said Sam Ash, Jr., Jared’s father. “I want him to do well and I think this is the right thing for him.”

Sam, Jr., thinks the experience will be good for his son, but wasn’t expecting him to be gone for so long.

“I kind of thought he needed a little discipline,” Sam, Jr., said. “He signed up for six years. I just wanted him to do some pushups, you know?”

As of the start of July, Jared will begin his trek south to Fort Benning in Georgia for basic training, and he has been preparing himself for what is ahead. He has taken trips south before, but always in the winter, so the heat and humidity of a Georgia summer will be one of the first challenges he will face.

“It will be a new thing for him,” Sam, Jr., said. “He’s not much for the heat.”

“I’m doing a lot of pushups, sit-ups and pull-ups,” Jared said. “I went to drill a couple times. People down there who have already been through basic training give you an idea of what you’re going to go through.”

Aside from missing his family and friends, Jared admits to there being more he will long for.

“All the family events like this,” he said. “All the good times like this party. There will be a lot I’m missing out on.”

Jared and his family plan to constantly write letters to stay in contact – even with the pushup rumors floating around.