“That’s My Little Brother!”

This Veteran’s Day I’m going to boast unabashedly about my little brother. Like that scene at the end of the movie Backdraft where a dying Kurt Russell looks through the raging fire at Billy Baldwin and proudly says,”That’s my little brother!” I look at my little bro, also a firefighter, and say with all the teary eyed drama I can muster,”That’s my little bro man. That’s my little bro.” 

In 1991 my brother was a 19 year old Air Force fire and rescue specialist serving at a frontline air base in the Gulf War. We were all sick with anxiety because, although the public didn’t know it, we had heard that the personnel at those frontline bases were considered expendable. This, of course, was before the ground blitz started and we knew how swiftly we were going to crush Iraqi forces. My brother had sent us a video message from the front that had an air of “goodbye” about it which sent us all to our knees in intense prayer. Those whose loved ones serve our country in harms way know this anxiety only too well. Fortunately, he never had to defend the airbase against Iraqi troops.

Although the air campaign against Iraq was brilliant the news didn’t show how badly many of our aircraft were coming back from ground strikes all shot up. Our pilots flying numerous sorties each day against intense enemy ground fire were exhausted and still managed to bring their birds back riddled with holes on many occasions. My brother was one of those fire crew specialists who drove his crash truck off the flight line to rescue pilots who had been forced to crash land their A-10’s or F-16’s. On a couple of occasions he had to retrieve the bodies of pilots whose aircraft had been too badly damaged to land safely. Those memories are the battle scars that get buried deep in the soul but never really heal.

A10 Warthog Thunderbolt

A10 Warthog Thunderbolt (Photo credit: Timothy Wildey)

On one occasion, an A-10 pilot was bringing his crippled “warthog” back to base. He had received extremely intense anti-airacraft fire on his way to a target and was forced to break off the mission. This meant he was bringing back a wreck of an aircraft still loaded with 1,350 rounds of 30mm ammunition. The 30 “mike-mike” were explosive, depleted uranium shells designed to rip through the hull of enemy tanks. As a testament to the incredible quality of our pilots he was able to crash land his almost unflyable bird but was injured in the process and couldn’t get out of the cockpit. The aircraft caught fire and the heat caused the 30 mm shells to start “cooking off” in all directions. My 19 year old kid brother jumped from his crash truck and ran to the A-10 in the face of exploding shells any one of which would have left very little to send back home to us in a flag draped coffin if it had hit him. He pulled the pilot out of the cockpit and dragged him to the relative safety of the crash truck. For this he was awarded the Air Force Silver Star.

My brother doesn’t like to talk about that silver star. Like most folks in the military they look on their heroic acts as simply an act of duty as natural as rescuing or defending a family member. As a fire fighter my brother still continues to put his life on the line for us.

That little pain-in-the-butt who I used to put in headlocks and tease mercilessly grew up to be a hero and I will always love, admire and respect his courage and selflessness. Today he is an incredible father, a great BBQ Chef and my beer buddy. Happy Veteran’s Day Bro. And Happy Veteran’s Day with respect and gratitude to all those who have defended and served us with their lives.

6 Comments ↓

6 Comments on ““That’s My Little Brother!””

  1. Ask Dan November 12, 2012 at 4:49 AM #

    I too served in the 1st Gulf War, whilst in the USAF, as did my little brother, so can relate to this moving missive. You’ve every right to be proud.

    • Robert-preneur November 12, 2012 at 5:16 AM #

      Thank you for your service Dan as well as your brother’s. I appreciate your words very much.
      Warmth and peace

  2. Name November 12, 2012 at 4:56 AM #

    God bless all our Veterans.

    • Robert-preneur November 12, 2012 at 5:17 AM #

      Thank you. God bless them always.
      Warmth and peace

  3. free penny press November 14, 2012 at 1:56 AM #

    I’m proud of your Little Bro too!! My little bro just returned from his 2nd tour of Afghanistan and I marvel at his strength.. These wars are a no-win situation (I’ll skip my anti-war monologue)..
    So to your Bro and all the other little Bros. Salute!!

    • Robert-preneur November 14, 2012 at 4:46 AM #

      Thank you so much. Serving in Afghanistan is heroic and I wish the best to you and your brother who have served selflessly. He’s in my prayers.
      Warmth and Peace

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