Twin Brothers Serve Together at Camp Fallujah
By Staff Sgt. Ronna M. Weyland, USMC
Special to American Forces Press Service
CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq, May. 10, 2005 The Marine Corps offers the "buddy program" for new recruits who want to enlist with a friend and ship to boot camp at the same time instead of going alone. When the friend happens to be your twin brother, the program takes on a whole new meaning.
Marine Cpls. Dustin C. (left) and Kyle R. Hanson pose next to a sign for their makeshift barber shop at Camp Fallujah, Iraq. The 21-year-old identical twins are serving together as heavy equipment operators with Engineer Platoon, Charlie Company, 8th Communication Battalion, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, Headquarters Group, 2nd MEF (Forward). Photo by Staff Sgt. Ronna M. Weyland, USMC
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Cpls. Dustin C. and Kyle R. Hanson, heavy equipment operators from Engineer Platoon, C Company, 8th Communication Battalion, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, Headquarters Group, 2nd MEF (Forward) have been close all their life, but never planned on joining the Corps together.
"We have always been supportive of each other," said Kyle, the younger brother by six minutes. "Growing up, we had a tight group of friends and then it was always me and my brother. Every sport I did, he did; every sport he played, I did. We even worked together at the same job while we were in school."
When it came time to start thinking about life after high school, the 21-year-old identical twins from Jacksonville, Fla., had different plans.
"I had talked to my recruiter, taken the pre-(Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) and I was hanging out with (the recruiter) a lot," Dustin said, pointing to his twin while they laughed about the memory, "and [Kyle] would always give me a hard time and say stuff like "Why do you want to join the military?"
The two had tried ROTC in high school, so Kyle didn't understand why his brother would want to join.
"We were in ROTC for half a year and we hated it," Dustin explained. "We told each other we would never join the military, because of that experience."
Kyle, a National Honor Society member in high school, had enrolled in the University of West Florida, and was scheduled to start school at the end of the summer.
"The summer came and I kind of blew the recruiter off," Dustin said. "So, (Kyle) goes on a road trip for a week and comes back and said he had just joined the Marine Corps."
Their mother was as surprised as Dustin.
"After much hesitation and prayer, and after I realized Dustin was determined (to enlist), I decided to give him full support," said Kathie Hanson. "Kyle had been interested in going to college, so when he came home and told me he joined the Marines, I was very surprised."
Kyle explained his decision to join the Corps. "I had signed up to a school I wanted to go to and then found out my parents weren't going to help me out to go there," he said. "I had no intentions of joining, but I figured if I wasn't going to be able to go to the college I wanted, I said what the heck."
After exploring his options, Kyle said he knew joining the Corps was the right decision.
"I had talked to all the other services, but they didn't seem to be too interested," he recalled. "When I walked into the office, the recruiter recognized me and took me straight back to his office."
Kyle said he knew all the services offered the same benefits and it would be harder going into the Marine Corps, but the recruiter helped him with his decision.
"The Marine recruiter knew just what to say, what I wanted to hear," Kyle explained. "The others didn't want to sell the product I wanted. That is what it is all about, just like selling anything else. When you're a civilian, you don't really know the difference between the branches. He had it all lined up nice and easy."
Dustin signed up about a week later and both were active in the Delayed Entry Program until leaving for basic training at Parris Island, S.C., Jan. 6, 2003.
"We do not come from military families, so this was all new to me," said Kathie. "I read several books - (including) 'Making the Corps' and 'Keeping Faith,' -- which provided so much information about the Marines. How could I not be proud?"
The twins have no regrets.
"I'm very happy with the decision I made," explained Kyle. "I don't look back at anything and regret any of the choices I have made."
Dustin graduated as the honor graduate from boot camp and received a meritorious promotion to lance corporal. Kyle didn't let his brother outrank him for too long. After putting two people in the Corps on recruiter's assistance, Kyle received his meritorious promotion to lance corporal.
While attending their military occupational specialty school at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., the brothers received orders to their first duty station.
"Our platoon commander tried to tell us one was going to Japan and the other was going to the East Coast," Dustin recalled. "But, then we got our orders and we both were going to 8th Comm."
Since arriving in Camp Lejuene, N.C., in August 2003, the Hanson twins both received meritorious promotions to corporal; Kyle on June 2, 2004, and Dustin exactly three months later. Both are on their first deployment to Iraq and agree they are fortunate to be stationed here together. Their mother also finds comfort in her sons being together.
"It is scary and comforting having both the boys together," explained Kathie. "It scares me because if something happens and they are together, both could get hurt; but I know they give each other support and motivation, so that comforts me."
The brothers said they both know how their mother feels about the deployment together.
"She supports us," said Dustin proudly. "She is really proud of us and she wants us to be safe, but yet she knows ..." Kyle finished the statement for his brother. "She knows we look out for each other and we have Marines around us that are well trained just as we are, and we are here to do our job," he said.
The twins communicate with their mom daily through e-mail and keep her up to speed on how they are doing.
"I have always encouraged them to be independent, but I also know the bond of twins is strong," she said.
The twins are roommates here, so they are able to spend a lot of time together. "This is the first time I have seen him read (a book) in about five years," Dustin joked about his brother.
In their spare time, they both help with the remedial physical fitness program and are rifle bearers in the battalion color guard.
"I threw (Dustin) under my wing and told him he was going to do color guard, so he had no choice," laughed Kyle.
The Hanson brothers aren't sure how long their deployment in Iraq will last or what their future in the Corps will be, but they know they will never forget the experience.
"I'll be able to tell my kids one day I was able to help out the people of Iraq," said Kyle, who married his high school sweetheart last year. "We weren't scared coming here. We knew we signed up to serve America, and that is what we are here to do."
Dustin added, "I have gotten a lot of discipline from joining the Marine Corps. I wasn't on a good path."
Whatever the future holds for the Hanson twins, they both agree one day they will live next to each other and raise their families together.
Kathie said she is very proud of her sons' service to their country and it makes her even more proud to be an American.
"Their dedication, discipline and hard work inspires me and makes me strive to be a better person," explained the mother of five. "I am grateful to all who serve and feel if more Americans knew more about the military, and if all young people would give some sort of service, it would change our country."
(Marine Staff Sgt. Ronna M. Weyland is a combat correspondent deployed to Camp Fallujah, Iraq, with the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force.)