Face of Defense: Five Brothers Make Navy Their Family Business
By Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Katesha Washington
Special to American Forces Press Service
AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq, Jun. 18, 2009 For five brothers from a small town in Kentucky, serving in the military is a family tradition.
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Chris Roberts holds a photo of him, his four brothers and his son, a Marine, while taking a break from his duties in the battalion's steel shop at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, June 3, 2009. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. Katesha Washington
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Chief Petty Officer Chad Roberts, Petty Officers 1st Class Jody and Dwayne Roberts, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Chris Roberts are brothers who serve in the Navy and with the same unit -- Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 24, a Seabee unit based out of Lexington, Ky. Their brother, Bruce, retired from the Navy in 2006.
Chad and Chris, both steelworkers, and Dwayne, a construction electrician, are deployed to western Anbar province in Iraq. Jody, also a steelworker and the youngest boy out of seven children, did not deploy overseas with his brothers, but supports them while they are gone.
“I pray for their safety and their well-being every day,” he said. “I am very proud of Dwayne, Chad and Chris. I wish I could have joined them in Iraq, but as things happen, there was a reason God chose me to stay behind.”
Although they can’t always be in the same place at the same time, the bond the brothers share is unbreakable. Their sacred connection to each other was formed when they were growing up on the family farm about 85 miles outside of Louisville. Just like other American boys living in Small Town USA, the Roberts brothers showed their love for each other by beating up one another, competing to see who could jump the highest on their bikes, and playing baseball on the baseball diamond that their father, Millard, created just for his boys.
Bruce Roberts said one of his favorite childhood memories was beating the ‘unbeatable’ Sorgho Reds in baseball. “Most of my brothers were on the team, and Dad was the coach,” Bruce said. “We were very competitive.”
The brothers’ childhood dreams included the possibilities of becoming a professional baseball player, a veterinarian or even a farmer. Never did any one of them imagine that he, much less all of the brothers -- would join the Navy. But fate and their overwhelming love for the country drew them to where they are now.
Dwayne, the oldest of the siblings, was the first to join the Navy, in 1984. He didn’t join seeking excitement or to just have a 9-to-5 job, but rather to achieve his aspiration for a higher education and to satisfy his desire to serve his country.
“I wanted to get educated and serve my country,” he said. “I was already married, [but] couldn’t afford to go to college, because my wife and I were both ‘bringing home the bacon’ so to speak.”
Dwayne’s younger brothers, Chad and Jody, joined the Air Force in 1984 and 1986, respectively. After completing their obligated four years of service, they left the Air Force, and Dwayne finished his four years in the Navy. More than 10 years passed before any of them thought of putting on a military uniform again.
Then, on Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists attacked America.
“It was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Chris, the middle child of the family, said of the tragedy. “I didn’t like the fact that we were attacked on our own soil in the U.S. I knew I had to do something.”
Exactly two weeks after the attack, he raised his right hand and swore to support and defend the United States as a member of the Navy Reserve. Dwayne, Chad and Jody already had re-enlisted months before the attack.
“To do something like serving in the military is the most honorable thing one can do for their country,” Jody Roberts said. “Everyone needs to fight for the freedom of our country -- stand up, do your duty, and do it with honor, courage and commitment. That is the backbone of our military and a code we live by.”
The only opportunity for all five brothers to be in one location while serving in the Navy came in 2003, when Chad, Jody, Dwayne and Chris were at the Fleet and Industrial Supply Center in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, but Bruce was unable to get orders there.
The Roberts brothers attribute their enthusiasm for service to the love and support they’ve received from their own families and their local community in Kentucky.
“Our community is very supportive,” Chad Roberts said. “We all live in a small town of roughly 600 people, so everybody helps out our wives and watches out for our kids at school and around town.”
Their father and their mother, Barbara, are especially supportive and proud of the sacrifices that their sons are making for their country. They never tried to talk any of them out of joining the military, and they were not surprised when they finally joined.
“I prayed all the years they were growing up that they would never have to be involved in a war, but I know that this is God’s will,” she said. “I know that God will protect them and sustain us.”
Barbara added that love for God and each other are why her children are so close.
“We taught them to stand together in whatever they did and to support each other through life,” Barbara Roberts said. “They are not only brothers, [but also are] friends.”
The deep connection the brothers have with each other and the Navy is something they hope to pass on and already have begun to sow the seeds of brotherly love and commitment into their sons – Chris’ son is a Marine, while Bruce’s son followed his father’s footsteps into the Navy. Family get-togethers, they all agree, bring them even closer.
“We grew up as a close family doing the usual family vacations,” Chad Roberts said. “My mom and dad both have close families, so it was second nature to us. We all went into the military, but after our service was over, we all returned to our small town we grew up in to raise our own families there. So now we drill together, go camping together, and just spend time together.”
These days, the Roberts brothers may not get to spend as much together as they would like or get to see each other every day as they used to back home in Kentucky, but they never forget that they are a band of brothers, in family and in arms.”
(Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Katesha Washington serves with the 2nd Marine Logistics Group.)