Fix family's Army service spans a century, four generations

by Amanda Dolasinski
Stripes Korea
 Capt. Joe Fix knows his family isn't quite like other military families.
Spanning four generations, his family has pledged more than 100 years of service in the Army -- all the way back to his great-grandfather, who commanded a field artillery unit that traversed battlefields with horses.
"I'm proud of our family's service," Fix said.
The family's Army history began in 1915, when Joseph E. Fix Jr. enlisted in the New Jersey National Guard. He served as a medic. He eventually commissioned as an officer and was assigned to an artillery unit.
Fix Jr. commanded A Battery, 112th Field Artillery at Fort Bragg from 1940 to 1941.
Unlike today's howitzers that are towed behind motorized vehicles, those soldiers moved their cannons by horse. It was the Army's last horse-drawn unit.
"I can only imagine the amount of time and effort," said Capt. Joe Fix, who now also commands an artillery unit at Fort Bragg. "Their maintenance is completely different."
The next Joseph Fix at Fort Bragg was Fix's grandfather, Maj. Gen. Joseph E. Fix III, who retired after 33 years of service. He commanded an airborne company in the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team.
He left Fort Bragg for other assignments in 1951, but returned in 1954 when he served as a test parachute officer. Fix III jumped 218 times, said the youngest Fix.
"Every time when I'm on my way to the drop zone, I often think about him," Joe Fix said. "I always think of him as a great role model. He was a great officer and an even better father (to my father)."
The third generation of the Fix family -- Fix's parents Robert and Debra -- did not serve at Fort Bragg, but Fix said they were proud airborne soldiers with the 101st Division. They each served two tours at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, he said.
During their second tour, Robert was the commander of the 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry, and Debra Fix was the G1 of the division. The family moved to the Pentagon for their next assignment.
Debra Fix was among those wounded in the Pentagon during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. She later served in Iraq with a team from Human Resources Command.
And finally, the Fix family's fourth generation of service, which lies with Capt. Joe Fix and his brother Bobby Fix, who served 10 years before joining the Reserves.
Spouses of Joe Fix and Bobby Fix have also served in the Army. In 2012, all four shared a deployment to Afghanistan as part of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.
All of these experiences make escaping conversations about work difficult.
Family dinners are typically filled with whatever happened in training that week and end as the family uses the military decision-making process to plan the next family night.
"The military lingo comes out in conversation and you can't help it," Joe Fix said, chuckling. "I think we're different in that way."
The Fix family has bonded over their experiences commanding soldiers. Sometimes they bounce ideas off one another.
"It's stressful," Joe Fix said about being a commander. "It's mentally, emotionally and physically stressful, but it's one of the most rewarding jobs you'll have in the Army."
As part of the Army life, Joe Fix grew up crisscrossing the country because his parents were assigned to different installations.
Their last assignment before they retired as colonels was at the Pentagon. Joe Fix said he remembers their house was next to the Manassas National Battlefield Park.
Despite the rich tradition of service in his family, Joe Fix said, he never felt pressure to follow that path.
His parents and brother attended West Point, but Joe Fix wanted a college experience, so he chose Elon University. He participated in the university's ROTC program -- and decided the Army life was for him after all.
"After the first two years of ROTC, I could have quit. I really enjoyed it and stayed with it," Joe Fix said. "It was just what I know."
Joe Fix met his wife, Capt. Kimmy Fix, during their time at Elon. She was injured in a car crash during her deployment in Afghanistan and is in the process of medically retiring from the Army.
As Joe Fix prepared to be commissioned, he'd hoped for an infantry position. His father and grandfather were both infantry officers, he said.
Joe Fix, however, was destined for artillery, just like his great-grandfather more than 100 years ago.
"I got artillery and was kind of bummed about it," Joe Fix said. "My dad said I'd like it and he was right. I've loved it every day."

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