SGT Blalock is currently serving with the 199th BSB Garrison Command and SPC Laborde is serving in the 156th Infantry Battalion.
It seems military service runs deep in the family with Roland LaBorde who served in the U.S. Navy, daughter Jennifer and son Jack serving in the National Guard, and another son, Jared, who served in the U.S. Navy.
The MOS for the siblings is still the Louisiana National Guard's 156th Army Band but they are currently working in undisclosed areas.
Merry said her children’s journey to serving in the military began in middle school when they were learning to play band instruments.
“It is their love of music and their love of country that has gotten them where they are today,” she said.
Merry believes the strong influence of teachers in the middle and high school music programs helped to mold them. “It really all began in middle school with Rabon Vercher discovering that my two children had musical talent,” she said. “Pushing Jennifer and later Jack in the music programs gave them both a love for music and that got them interested in the Army Band.”
Merry explained that former Marksville High band director Wade Furniss encouraged them to audition.
“Years later, Jennifer has played all over the world and for presidents and other officials,” she said.
In the band, Jennifer plays several instruments including the piano, clarinet and bass clarinet. Jack plays the trombone.
Merry also said even teaching her children how to set a formal table setting has come in handy while they have been in the military.
“I would tell them ‘you never know one day you may have dinner with the President,’” she said. “And now because of being in the band they have eaten at a formal dinner the President was also served.”
The siblings are stationed about one mile apart on the same base. They run into each other occasionally, but talk more often on the phone.
“It feels good (for us to be together),” Blalock said. “If he needs me, I am here. But it is bad because I feel like I am the big sister and need to be closer to take care of him.”
Blalock, age 30, has been serving in the Louisiana National Guard for 12 years. This is her first tour of duty in Iraq.
LaBorde, age 24, is also serving overseas for the first time as a member of the Louisiana National Guard.
The goals Blalock hopes to achieve while overseas are to return to her family and to “do my job well enough that people make it home to their families as well,” she said.
Blalock is married to Louis Blalock of the Fifth Ward community and they have two children, Julie and William. While serving in Iraq, Blalock’s children are being cared for by her husband, parents, in-laws and other family members.
“My husband has proven to me that he is strong and a great father so I don’t worry about my kids being loved,” she said. “Thank goodness he has the support of my mother and father and his mother and father.”
“My mother is one of the care providers for my children while my husband is away at work,” Blalock continued. “My mother-in-law, Barbara Blalock, is also a care provider. She is also a blessing to have back home. I thank God every day for blessing me with such a loving family.”
Merry LaBorde has also proven to be the backbone of stability for the sister and brother pair while serving away from the family.
“I remember the morning I went to pick up my brother Jack to head out for the training center. My mother stayed up all night sitting by the door just to tell us goodbye and that she loved us,” Blalock explained. “When she learned the news her only daughter and her youngest son were deploying to Iraq, she asked for us to take care of one another and not to forget to write to her.” SGT Blalock is scheduled to return by Christmas from her deployment while SPC Laborde should return shortly after.