Bravery in tandem: a family of warfighters

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Zachary Nordheim
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The journey into the military is not always a planned one. Individuals may join for the financial security, pride for America or travel opportunities. These two sisters however, joined to enable stability for their families and unintentionally continued their family legacy.

Keishnel Torres, currently Kieshnel Smith, and Karla Torres lived in the town of Barranquitas, Puerto Rico, surrounded by their family, friends, culture, language and normalcy. It wasn’t until their father left to join the U.S. Army that everything would change.

“For me it was a huge culture shock when we arrived to the states,” said Senior Airman Karla Torres, 325th Medical Group command support staff technician. “The culture, schools, language was all different. There is also a huge diversity here compared to Puerto Rico.”

In certain families, serving in the military runs deep through generations. Stories of bravery and sacrifice may be passed down, inspiring others to join and continue the legacy.

“In our family, we’ve had at least 18 members that served or are currently serving,” said Torres. “Our oldest relative that served would be our great-great-grandfather that fought in the Spanish American War. My grandfather and his five brothers were all drafted into the Vietnam War. Currently our father and cousin serve in the Army as officers, and my sister and I are enlisted in the Air Force.”

Following in their families’ footsteps was never the intent for either sister. It wouldn’t be until later in life that Smith and Torres would make the decision to enlist. For Smith, she decided after obtaining an associate degree in information technology at the age of 21 that she needed more stability in her life. It would be during the peak of Covid-19 that Torres felt a change was needed. As of today, both sisters are the first in their family to serve in the U.S. Air Force.

“It’s funny when people ask the question, “Why did you join?” said Staff Sgt. Keishnel Smith, 53rd Test Support Squadron client systems technician. “They think oh yeah, it’s definitely the family history, but in all reality, we just needed stability. However, it’s an honor to say that my dad is in the Army. Being able to say that I served alongside him fills me with pride. My son is already telling me that he wants to join the army because he loves his Grandpa so much.”

With the inspiration running down to even more generations, the sisters received news in 2021 that would adjust their career paths: a brain tumor was found in their father, Carlos Torres.

“It was devastating when we found out,” said Karla Torres. “At first the doctor only gave him a few months to live, but after getting a second opinion that doctor said that they could operate and give him treatment. After a successful first operation, he was tumor free, but not cancer free. Our father continues to have a good attitude and tries to be as positive as possible.”

Carlos was stationed at Tyndall, so the sisters applied for humanitarian orders after receiving the news, giving them the opportunity to all be stationed at the same installation together.

“It was actually my husband who found out about [Humanitarian orders] when talking to his first [sergeant],” said Smith. “We applied to get sent to Tyndall and a month later we were packing to move. Having that chance to be around family was such a blessing. Being able to have my sister and my kids spend quality time with their grandparents was invaluable.”

Unfortunately, a year after being stationed together Carlos Torres would be relocated for treatment purposes. As of today, Carlos is currently undergoing treatment and is set to retire from the U.S. Army after 20 years of service.

The Torres family has a long dedication to military service ranging from the Spanish American War to current day. The Torres sisters expressed that they want to continue to build upon their families legacy and are thankful for the resources provided.