AMESBURY (CBS) — The best present for one family in Amesbury this year didn’t fit under their Christmas tree. It was the gift of each other. Gary and Jennifer Bent enjoyed having all five of their kids home for the holidays.
“It’s like they’re never apart. It’s like they haven’t been so it’s just back to the same old bantering and name calling. They’re just bigger and louder now,” said Jennifer. “It’s just good to get them home,” Gary added.
Having them all together is rare, in fact, it hasn’t happened in over a year and a half. Three of the five step-siblings are following in Gary’s footsteps to serve in the military.
“It definitely builds character. My stepfather played a role in it, seeing the way he acted and how he treated us growing up,” said U.S. Army Combat Engineer Michael Nizwantowski.
“The main reason I enlisted was to give back. There’s plenty of people who day to day do so much. What I’m doing is little compared to that. It’s what I can do,” said Andrew Nizwantowski.
This priceless reunion comes after the scare of their lives. In April, their son Jake Bent was injured in Afghanistan, he suffered major burns.
“I’ve been a soldier and a first responder my whole life. I’ve seen people injured and worse, but seeing Jake injured is something we’re still trying to forget,” said Gary.
Jake has made an amazing recovery and will return to his unit in early January. The parents know there are more sleepless nights and deployments ahead.
“I have the utmost respect for any man or woman who enlists nowadays because you are going to war at some point. It’s just inevitable,” Gary said.
So they’re focused on this precious time together — thankful for their family, and the much larger one they belong to forever: “Just the camaraderie of soldiers, you don’t find that in civilian occupations. That’s what I miss the most.”