The following is a USAA sponsored post by Ellie Kay as she tells her story.
The Black Hawks flew in low and hard, hovering over the field while Rangers rappelled out of the birds, set a perimeter with their guns and shot off rounds. The Independence Day crowd at the Fort Drum parade grounds, held their collective breath. The soldiers went through complicated maneuvers while the Black Hawks circled, then they piled back into their birds and flew away. At that moment, four-year-old Joshua said, “When I grow up, that is what I want to do!”
Sixteen years later, Joshua was a junior at West Point (class of 2017) and he was rappelling down ropes, earning his Air Assault wings. His older brother, Philip (Navy class of 2011) was also running Air Assault missions as a Marine—but unlike his little brother, his missions were real world. This is part of the story that
Philip knew he wanted to go into the Marine infantry from the time he was 8 years old. The two brothers shared a room in a household of seven and would dress in camo, set their own perimeters and hold their sister, Bethany, and her stuffed animals hostage, pending interrogation.
One of their other brothers, Jonathan, never bought into the ground pounder nuances, preferring the model airplanes he built with his fighter pilot dad. He used to go to the flight line on base and watch his dad takeoff, and from the age of seven, he vowed to fly one day. He chose the Air Force Academy (class of 2015) and is training in the F15E Strike Eagle. He says, “I want to learn to fly the best airplane I can, so I can keep my infantry brothers safe on the ground.”
The only thing that dampens these dreams, is the ongoing inter service rivalry on game day—especially Army vs Navy. This game means everything to the cadets and midshipmen. In fact, each of my sons repeated the phrase “Go Army/Beat Navy” or “Go Navy/Beat Army” dozens of times each week they attended their schools.
The rivalry is real, ongoing and neverending. My sons have been known to get in a tussle on the grass outside a golf course restaurant to prove whose branch of service is toughest.
Oy vey, what is a military mom to do with such sons?
The first time Joshua attended an Army/Navy game, his older brother was a midshipman and Joshua was still in high school. Navy won and Philip cheered. The first three years Joshua was at West Point, Navy won and Philip cheered. Last year was Joshua’s final year as a cadet and we all flew in for the big game. His Marine brother and his wife were there as well—Philip was talking smack and cheering on Navy. Joshua sat with the Corps but took the time to meet with us before the game so he could tell Philip they were going to lose.
We sat in the stands on the 50-yard line with our Marine who was increasingly frustrated at Navy’s inability to capitalize on turnovers. It became apparent that Army could break their losing streak and Philip was angry.
I couldn’t understand, “Philip, Navy has won for 15 years now, you knew they had to lose sometime. Why are you so upset?” He shrugged his shoulders, “Yeah, I know that, but I didn’t want Army to win while Joshua was still going there!”
As a mom, people ask me who I cheer for and I usually say, “My favorite son.” My boys know they are all my favorite, so no matter who I cheer for, I’m always rooting for a winner.
Douglas McArthur said, “On the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds that on other days, on other fields will bear the fruits of victory.”
These teams meet on fields of friendly strife, some are brothers by blood but all are brothers in arms. Go Army/Beat Navy! Go Navy/Beat Army!
Check out the Kay Brothers featured in USAA's Service & Ink video here:
Ellie Kay is an author, blogger, podcaster and wife of a fighter pilot. She’s the somewhat sane mom of 7, including sons that serve in the Air Force, Marines and Army. She’s also the founder of Heroes at Home, a 501(c)(3) that provides free financial education shows directly on bases around the world to service members. Hear her fun and upbeat podcast at The Money Millhouse or follow her speaking schedule at http://heroesathome.org/. Her blog can be found at http://elliekay.com/ and provides timely financial advice for military families.