Pfc. Francois Espinosa poses after his BCT graduation with his Family, including his son Sgt. Diaz-Espinosa and Brig. Gen. Jason E. Kelly, March 24. Pfc. Espinosa joined the Army National Guard at 38, after his son and a team of recruiters in New York City helped him enlist with an age waiver. (Photo by Nathan Clinebelle)

Turning of the Tables: Soldier attends his father’s BCT graduation

By Emily Hileman, Fort Jackson Public Affairs

The tables were turned, March 23 as Sgt. Wilson Diaz-Espinosa watched his 38-year-old father, Pfc. Francois Espinosa graduate Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson.

“For him to accomplish everything he’s done, it makes me proud. I knew he could do it and he actually did it,” Sgt. Espinosa said.

Even though he’s new to the Army, Pfc. Espinosa is no stranger to being a public servant.

“I’ve been in the medical field my entire life,” he said. “I was an emergency room tech, at first. Then, I was EMS for the City of New York. I did that for a good 10 years and I’ve been a nurse for the past eight years.”

Pfc. Espinosa enjoys his career in the medical field, but he said he wants to be in the field and chose a military occupational specialty that reflected that – he chose to be a 13F - Fire Support Specialist. “I wanted something different,” he said. “I am an avid outdoorsman and wanted to master the craft of land navigation.”

Although his original goal was to be quiet, stay in the background, and get the job done, Pfc. Espinosa’s leadership had other plans for him. He was placed in a leadership position during his first week of BCT.

“I would’ve never thought I was going to be placed in a leadership role,” he said. “Teamwork is always necessary in a work atmosphere, but leadership is a different role. I was apprehensive at first, but after week two, my doubts and fears started to dwindle away as I was able to command a unit, and everyone listened and respected me.”

Joining the Army is something Pfc. Espinosa said he has always wanted to do but refrained due to his love and commitment to his family. He was worried about being gone for long periods of time and the toll it would take on him, his wife, and their four children.

That all changed when his son, Sgt. Diaz-Espinosa worked as a recruiter’s assistant for six months with the Bravo Team New York Recruiting Station. During this time, Sgt. Diaz-Espinosa learned how recruiting works and realized that his father, who is three years older than the Army’s cut off for enlistees, could receive a waiver for his age. “When I started learning about the waivers, I was like, ‘Wow. I can see if my Dad can get in with one,’” Sgt. Diaz-Espinosa said.

When Sgt. Diaz-Espinosa informed his father of the opportunity, Pfc. Espinosa decided to enlist.

“There has been a void (in my life),” he said. “I haven’t felt like I am doing something that matters. Joining the Army and going through this process has put me in a position to fill that void.”

Pfc. Espinosa was surrounded by caring and encouraging family members that have supported him since he decided to enlist. Pfc Espinosa’s 11-year-old son, also named Francois Espinosa was present and beaming with pride. Although he wasn’t too keen on the idea at first, it started to grow on him.

“Now, I just feel proud of him and happy that he’s here in front of me and that he finally graduated BCT. He’s officially a U.S. Soldier. I love him and I hope that he will keep pushing and never give up.”

When asked what advice he would give other Soldiers that are older than the average enlistee, Pfc. Espinosa said, “Don’t be afraid. Just commit to something and follow through. It’ll be alright.”