1st Battalion 22nd Infantry
awaiting 18th birthday to join the fight
By Emily Baker
Fort Hood Herald January 25, 2006
The Soldiers of the
4th Infantry Division's youngest band of brothers know they just
volunteered for something huge.
Pvt. Alexander Bragg, Pvt. Daryl Keling and Pfc. Jacob Brannon were in junior high school when terrorists attacked New York and Washington
on Sept. 11, 2001, and when the war in Afghanistan started the next month.
They had hardly begun high school when the war in Iraq started in March 2003.
The nation has been at war the entire time they've been considering what to do with their futures.
Even so, they've volunteered to protect several hundred million people they've never met.
And they're not old enough to vote.
All three soldiers turn 18 in April, the same month they'll go to war.
"This is what I need to do to serve my country," said Brannon, who will be 18 on April 10.
The Soldiers come from different corners of the South and met in basic training. They learned to be infantryman together,
and now they are assigned to the 4th Infantry Division's famed 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team,
the unit that captured ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in December 2003.
Keling was sitting at home in Charlotte, N.C., one day wondering what he could do to repay the thousands who have served before him.
He might not have known it would be so soon, but Keling, whose birthday is April 25,
knew he would be deployed to a combat zone if he joined the Army.
His friends went through the same thought process.
"All you can do is better yourself," Brannon thought about joining the Army.
Bragg, who will be 18 on April 14, wanted to see history first-hand.
"I thought being in the infantry was the best way to experience history," he said.
The Soldiers are eager to begin work with the famous battalion and realize being a part of such notoriety means more eyes are on them.
"It definitely raises the expectations," said Brannon, who is from Atlanta. "I know that I really have to know my stuff to be here."
None of the Soldiers longs for the carefree days of summer vacation.
"Part of me wants to be a little kid and be safe again," Bragg said. "But I make a decent income, and we're surrounded by people who support us."
Bragg, who is from Richmond, Va., said the Army has taught him how much he's capable of.
He was weak when he started basic training, but he finished after doing things he never thought he'd be able to do.
"You meet some of the best people in the Army, too," Keling said.
Contact Emily Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2006 - Killeen Daily Herald
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