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The title of this article has two levels of meaning. The first, of course, is that sense that all who fight the enemy on the front lines are brothers-in-arms, caring for each other and watching each other's back. The other is the reason for this article. I was watching 60 Minutes and saw a story that really stirred a variety of thoughts and emotions in me. The story concerned siblings serving together in front line units. It focused on the Beans brothers who served together, at the same time, in the same Marine Corps unit, even in the same platoon, in Ramadi, Iraq. They would find out while they were there that there were four other sets of brothers in that unit as well. This is a "band of brothers" in a much deeper sense than the usual meaning of the term.
They are not the first to do this. Brothers have fought side by side since the beginning of the nation, but ever since WWII and the famous loss of the five Sullivan brothers who served and died together on the same ship in the South Pacific, the military has been very sensitive about allowing that level of sacrifice to be endured by a single family again. The ship the Sullivan brothers served on was the light cruiser, USS Juneau. It was sunk by a Japanese torpedo near the Solomon Islands on November 13, 1942. A torpedo from the Japanese sub I-26 struck the Juneau near its ammunition magazines, which set off a massive explosion, and the ship quickly sank. The Juneau, already severely damaged from previous battles in the Guadalcanal Campaign, was limping, along with several other damaged ships toward the Allied base at Espiritu Santo Island when the Japanese sub struck.
The commanding officer in charge of this battle-damaged task force believed that the explosion had been so horrendous that no one could have survived it and ordered the rest of the convoy to continue on to Espiritu Santo Island. The commander was worried that the unseen sub would sink even more of the convoy if they stayed in the area to engage in any search and rescue operations. In fact, about 100 of the Juneau's crew survived the blast and the sudden sinking, but because of several military decisions and snafus including a need for radio silence and the location reports getting caught up in "paperwork," search and rescue efforts were not launched for several days. The survivors, some of whom were severely wounded, were subjected to the elements, hunger and thirst, and repeated shark attacks over those several days. Only ten survivors were eventually found and retrieved from the waters of the South Pacific by a PBY Catalina float plane search craft.
As a result of this event a Department of Defense Directive, "Special Separation Policies for Survivorship", was promulgated in an effort to protect members of any single family, from being drafted or from combat duty, in wartime, if they have already lost family members in military service.
But where there is a will, as we all know, there is also a way to be found around any obstacle. This is a Marine Corps story too.
The Beans brothers, Corporal, Daniel and Lance Cpl., Joshua, come from a family steeped in Marine Corps history. They are the fourth generation of their family to be Marines. Both their great-grandfather and their grandfather achieved the rank of Brigadier General during careers in the Corps. Their grandfather served in Vietnam, and their father served in the Marine Corps Reserves in the 70's.
In 2010, Daniel and Joshua were serving in separate Marine Corps Reserve Units. Daniel was with a unit in Tallahassee and Joshua was with a unit in Orlando, FL. Daniel called Josh and asked if he would go to Iraq with him. Josh was able to get the transfer to Daniel's unit, and when they got to Iraq they found that they were not unique, as there were already four sets of brothers serving in the same 500 member battalion. They were the Hernandez brothers, Lance Cpls. Guillermo, and Raul, The Faseler brothers, Lance Cpls., Jonathon and Matthew, the Cigarroa brothers, Gunnery Sgt. Hector, and Sgt. Francisco, and the Henrichsen brothers, Lance Cpls. Cody and Bobby.
After the Beans brothers came home from their tour in Iraq, they felt that they could still do more for the country and for the Corps. They found a unit that would take them together, the 1st Battalion, 23rd Regiment, "Lone Star Battalion" of Texas. There are no U.S. Marine Corps policies that prevent brothers from serving together on the front lines. Marine Corps officials say that brothers often serve together in the Corps, mostly in reserve units, because they tend to join units near their hometowns.
When the Beans brothers deployed to Afghanistan early in 2011, they were one of three sets of brothers that went with the Lone Star Battalion on that tour.
The Beans brothers parents, Crystal and Mark, had advised against their sons plans to serve together, but as is wont with sons, they did it anyway. Now that their sons have returned safely from Afghanistan, they express both pride and relief that they are finally home. They consider themselves blessed. The long months of double worries are over and they have their sons back home with them, whole, safe and sound, which is something so many other families can not say.
Daniel Beans has returned to his job as a policeman for the Gainesville, FL police department and volunteers for the department's military assistance program. Joshua Beans is planning to go back to school to become a paramedic. "I'm glad to be home, and it is starting to feel normal to be here," Daniel says. "I'm also glad to be back at work because that is something normal."
We, too, are glad that the Beans brothers are home, and back to "normal". We are glad that they and their other brothers-in-arms carried out their service with honor and dignity. May the rest of their lives be full of family, good times, and happiness. One thing is for sure, they have given all of us a new definition for the phrase, "band of brothers". Semper Fi, brothers!