After 22 years, Sgt. 1st Class Drew Fotias, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, is ending his Army career with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), the same division his father served in during the Vietnam War.
Drew comes from a long line of men who have dedicated their lives to serving the country. He is the fourth generation of his Family to serve in the military.
“I graduated high school in Wilmington, Delaware, and that’s where I joined the Marine Corps,” Drew said. “Growing up I knew my dad was in the Army and had been in the 101st, and I always knew I wanted to be in the military. I went to Parris Island for bootcamp in September 1998 and then I was stationed in North Carolina, pretty much my whole career was at Camp Lejeune. I did four years in the Marine Corps until January 2003 and then a few months after I got out, I joined the Army.”
Because of complications with his reenlistment, Drew opted to get out of the Marine Corps and join the Army.
“I knew I wanted to stay in the military, so I was already talking to recruiters as I was getting out of the Marine Corps,” he said.
His Army career took him to Georgia, Colorado and Germany. Along the way Drew deployed four times to Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2016 he received reassignment orders to the 101st.
“It was pretty awesome,” Drew said. “I’ve always taken a lot of pride in my military service because of my dad. [My grandfather] was in the Marine Corps. Pretty much all the men in our Family have served in the military, so it’s a source of a lot of pride for me. When I got orders to come to the 101st, I couldn’t believe I was going to be able to wear the same patch my dad wore in Vietnam. That’s pretty awesome.”
Nick Fotias, Drew’s father, said he received a draft notice after he was already enlisted in the Army.
“I enlisted in 1969 and went to basic at Fort Bragg and did AIT at Fort McClellan and then I went to Fort Benning for jump school and Pathfinder School before I shipped out to Vietnam in late 1969, early 1970. I was attached to the Pathfinder Group in the 101st Airborne Division and I was there for one year.”
After leaving Vietnam, Nick was assigned to Fort Lewis, Washington, where he got out of the Army as an E-4. He and a fellow Pathfinder friend decided to stay on the West Coast for a while until returning home to Delaware.
“My grandfather served in World War I and my father was in World War II, I served in Vietnam, and my son has served in the Middle East. All men in our Family have served in the military in one branch or another since my grandfather arrived in the country from Greece. Back then, there was some sort of deal where if you served a period of time in the military and were honorably discharged you were granted citizenship, so that’s what he did.”
Nick remembers receiving the phone call from Drew telling him he was coming to the 101st Airborne Division to finish out his military career.
“I was excited for Drew. He knew he came from a line of service members,” Nick said. “I stood by him. It was exciting when he called me and told me he was coming to the 101st. We were both really excited that he was going to be a part of the unit I was. I was proud.”
Drew and his father’s shared experiences in the military grew over the years and they were able to share more about their service with one another.
“After my first deployment, we really started talking more about his time in the military,” Drew said. “When he found out I was coming here he was super excited about that. My dad was in the Battle of Fire Support Base Ripcord. He was in several fire base fights, but the battle at Ripcord is probably the better known one. When you come to Fort Campbell and you in-process, the company and building is actually named after 1st Lt. Bob Kalsu, who my dad knew very well. The rocket that came in and killed Lieutenant Kalsu, my dad was right beside him.”
Drew took his father to visit the building named after his old friend.
“I got to know Bob and got pretty close with him, he was a good friend of mine,” Nick said. “He died in my arms. The first time I came to Fort Campbell and visited Drew, he took me on base to visit the building and the Pathfinder compound.”
The father and son also have attended reunions that commemorate the Battle of Fire Support Base Ripcord together.
“There is an association and a reunion for the battle at Ripcord,” Nick said. “They get together somewhere every year. I’ve gone to the past two reunions, and Drew has come with me. It’s a great group of guys and they accepted him immediately into the fold. The guys kept inviting me for years, but I wasn’t sure I was ready to open up those old wounds until finally one year I thought why not. The first year I went, Drew came with me. It was a rollercoaster of emotions. I saw guys I haven’t seen in 40 years, we went from hugging and crying to laughing and joking and back again.”
Now after 22 years of service, Drew is preparing to experience life outside of the military just as his father did. He hopes to continue working for the military and giving back in some capacity.
“I retire in November,” Drew said. “After 22 years I felt like it was time. It’s going to be a huge change, we’ll see how it goes. I’m hoping to get a job on base, I’m staying here with my Family in the Clarksville area, but I feel like I still want to be around Soldiers and work with the Army. I’d like to still somehow contribute.”
Drew has been married to Alyson for 19 years. Together they have a daughter, Amelia, who attends high school in Clarksville.
“I’m going to miss the relationships and the bonds you make in the military,” Drew said. “I met people in the military I probably wouldn’t have met otherwise. You see on the news how divided people are, but in the military you really didn’t see that. You’re around so many different backgrounds and you end up becoming Family with them.”
Nick resides in Melville, Delaware, with his wife, Patricia, and talks with his son frequently.
“Drew has done much more than I ever did in his military service, the places he’s been and the things he’s done,” Nick said. “I’m very proud of my son of what he’s accomplished. He’s entering a new chapter in his life and I know he’ll be just as successful in whatever he chooses to do.”