William Bowers

Author and American Air Force Veteran of Operation Desert Shield/Storm

Brothers Then, Brothers Now, Brothers Forever

Understanding Brothers-in-Arms

Brothers-in-arms is a phrase often used to describe the special relationship between those serving in combat. I first learned this phrase from my father. The men he served with were not just friends, they were brothers. They were who he would turn to in good times and in bad, whether for moral support, a listening ear or just to tease. Brothers and sisters-in-arms need to know they can wholeheartedly depend on each other by placing faith in the other’s ability. It’s not just about survival. It’s about comfort; knowing there’s someone close to you that can perfectly relate to the hell you’re going through. With no sense of the big picture, one fights only for the man next to you and not for some cause, ideal, policy, or political objective. The bonds formed while facing adversity become as strong as that one has with the family they grew up with.

To be honest, I struggled with understanding this as a child. However, as an adult, I have been lucky enough to surround myself with men and women who share that special bond. Keep in mind, I am an outsider looking in as I have not served our country, but, they do not treat me like an outsider. When I started the book with Bill, I didn’t expect to gain a family. I expected to write a book, promote and sell a book and go on with life as usual. I never expected to meet the guys, nor did I ever expect to be so invested in their lives. As a matter of fact, I figured they would just assume I didn’t understand them and move on.

Unbreakable

Think about it, their unbreakable trust and kinship grew as they pushed their mind and bodies to the limits each day in an environment that did not forgive them should one man mess up. They had one role- one helps the next to make sure no one falls. And they all took that one step further by inviting me in to make sure Bill’s book was a success. Through various emails, texts and phone calls, I quickly learned that no matter what path each had followed, when a brother needed something he could count on his fellow airmen. In short, the duty, patriotism, friendship, and sacrifice that bonded them in service; bonded them for life.

What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

These guys didn’t gush about their friendship, seriously they are all Alpha males. However, what they did provide was nonverbal cues- you know the stuff that comes from the emotional brain. Simple nuances of the voice, the time and manner which they responded, and the words that weren’t said somehow opened a door and invited me in. Before I knew it, they were good-naturedly taunting and teasing me like I had known them my entire life. They were boyishly competing to tell me their version of each story; however, I saw something deeper: in their own unique way, each man was tactfully shedding light on just how much respect and admiration they had for each other.

Seeing Past the Surface 

But, that isn’t the only thing that happened. As the conversations grew longer, I came to learn each man’s story. Not just of their time in the military; but who they became as men. I saw their vulnerabilities, their fears, their successes and their failures. I no longer saw them as Bill’s brothers, I felt I too was connected to them.

As the months passed, I watched these men overcome obstacles in their personal lives. I have watched them suffer the loss of loved ones, and I have watched them face some awful health issues. I am talking the kind of stuff that would break any other person. However, they did not do this alone. They reached out to their brothers and sisters and asked for help. And, help was immediate.

The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it. Norman Schwarzkopf

There is an unwritten code that is simply understood and activated when someone is in need. When things seem to be at their worst, the men and women of the 3rd SPG step up and stand with you. They are dependable through good times and bad. They are who you can truly count on. They endure and are consistently reliable. They share the burden when they don’t have to.

“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.” Erin Majors

These men and women are immediately at someone’s side regardless of the cost. It’s the willingness to give up things of significant worth for the benefit of another. They will travel a considerable distance to be with a friend in need. They will sacrifice sleep by taking a late-night phone call. They will give you the shirt off their back, so you are warm at night.

“I don’t measure a man’s success by how high he climbs but by how high he bounces when he hits bottom.” General George S. Patton

They are willing to be truthful even when it is hard. They hold one another accountable if someone gets out of line. It takes courage to say the difficult things when they see a friend going down a destructive path, but they do what needs to be done. They are real with each other- you can laugh or cry, be either silly or serious, and still feel the warmth of their bond.

They know mistakes are part of life and they don’t condemn you for making mistakes. When conflicts come up, they reach out. You know they have your back. They give you the space to grow, the time to recalibrate, and the open door to sharing insights that only come from experience. They celebrate your victories and are genuinely happy for your successes. Your joy is their joy, too.

Goodnight

I now understand what my father meant when he called those he served with his brothers. It was never something that could be truly explained, it was something that needed to be felt.  I may not have served with these men and women, but the love I feel for them is so deep that I would drop everything and travel any distance to be there if they needed someone. I am humbled by their courage, their determination, and their acceptance.  It is because of them that I fall asleep each night safer, my dreams are sweeter, and I know, I will never be alone. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to the members of the 3rd SPG, especially, Billy, Kevin, Mike, Jay, Flounder, Smoke, Gus and Rick for letting me in!

We sleep safely at night because rough men stand ready to visit violence on those who would harm us. Winston Churchill

1 Comment

  1. We are grateful for men and women like you! Helen

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Photo credit Danielle Foster Creations

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