My identical twin brother and I were born in the U.S. shortly after our parents emigrated here from South Korea.
Our parents were young when they had us. My dad was in grad school and my mom had to drop school to work as a Registered Nurse while raising us.
My twin brother and I explored the big wide world together.
I'm not particularly keen on how we were dressed.
Water hunting for Rainbow Trout.
If I remember correctly, that's Devil's Peak in Wyoming in the background.
Just a couple of superheros. We fought a lot of crime as the White Power Ranger and Robin.
Being swarmed by a gaggle of geese.
When I was a kid, my family was kind of poor. This was the first time my parents bought us a watch.
I wish I knew the back story of this picture.
Camping in a tent at a friends house. Indoors of course.
Asian Driving Exam.
My brother and I spent a lot of time experiencing the joys of the great outdoors.
To date, still the best snowman (or snowoman) we ever made.
This is a picture after we won awards at the regional MathCounts competition. We were mathletes, obviously those trophies made panties wet.
We took a robotics course during the summer involving legos.
The halcyon days of vanilla Warcraft III.
Around the time we graduated high school. One of the last pictures of me and my brother before I enlisted.
In January of 2006, I enlisted in the U.S. Army for numerous reasons. Mainly because I was too immature for school and wanted time off to grow up. Additionally, my service would qualify me for the G.I. Bill and allow me to attend college after my service at the government's expense.
Looking a bit exhausted after a month and a half long field exercise. After that, the thought of enduring a 12 month actual deployment was domineering.
Learning and brushing up on the old tricks of the trade.
This is when I zeroed my weapon for the last time as we prepared to move in to Iraq.
I was deployed to Iraq twice, the first time was in January 2007 to April 2008 (~15 months) during the famous Troop Surge. I deployed to Iraq again in January 2010 to December 2010 (~12 months).
I served on a number of different teams through the course of my deployments, doing different jobs.
The majority of my time was spent serving as a vehicle gunner on convoys. The M249, M240B, and the M2 .50 Cal machine gun, I worked them all.
Being swarmed by a gaggle of Iraqi children.
Talking to the local nationals and hoping to forge ties with the local community.
A lot of time was spent sitting in a truck behind a machine gun. Many times I felt like I was doing nothing but waiting.
On occasion I was tasked with augmenting the personal security detachment of staff officers while they did their thing and held meetings with community leaders. That left the security detachment to just wait around outside, usually for several hours.
I worked with a Mobile Training Team (MTT) that trained up the local Iraqi Army (IAs) and local Iraqi Police (IPs). We trained them on basic combat tactics, how to conduct searches and detentions, and basic marksmanship. I assisted in teaching how to break down, clean, and maintain an AK-47, as well as the proper way to shoot the weapon.
The Army life was rough, no doubt about it. The worst was birthdays. Imagine its your birthday and you have 15 brothers. And those 15 brothers are bored.
Note: I debated whether or not to post this picture. I smudged the faces of my platoon mates because I could see this picture becoming interpreted out of context. While its true that I was the only Asian-American in my platoon, it didn't matter, we were all brothers. The kind of brothers that you are sick of but would lay your life down for them in a heartbeat. Soldiers show their affection in strange ways. A punch meant 'I love you man' and calling me a 'dirty gook' meant 'I REALLY love you man'. I can understand how it might look to an outsider, but these kinds of social interactions were normal in the combat theater. About 50% of the time we referred to each other by racial slurs and epithets. That was a habit I had to break quickly when reintegrating into the civilian world.
One of the last pictures from my second and final tour in Iraq.
Dressed up in my Class As for a military ball.
For as long as I could remember, my brother was always the one person in the whole world who understood me. We were identical twins, he knew how I felt without asking. He always knew what I was thinking and feeling. After returning from Iraq the first time, I found that my relationship with my brother had changed. We didn't connect like we used to. When he used to ask me about Iraq, I would tell him that he wouldn't understand, that he could never understand. Truth be told, I felt closer to my platoon mates than my brother at that time.
Despite everything, we were still identical twins. Some things never change.
We worked on our relationship, and even though it's not back to the way it used to be, it's still a good relationship. It's just different.
In the fall of 2009, my twin brother took a break from school after three years of college and enlisted in the Georgia National Guard. There was about a year and a half overlap when we were both serving in the military.
I received an honorable discharge in February 2011. I finally started attending college in the fall of that year at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, GA.
Earlier this year, in January 2012 my brother's unit was deployed to Afghanistan.
He hasn't taken many pictures while he's been in Afghanistan. This is one of the very few pictures he has.
Then and now. I don't think anybody could have guessed that this pair of dopey twins would end up joining the army, with one serving in Iraq and the other serving in Afghanistan. I like the juxtaposition of this picture.
Over the summer, my brother came back for two weeks of mid-tour leave.
This is the last picture I have of me and him. He is still in Afghanistan, and I pray for him to return home to us safely. He's a fellow soldier. My twin. My brother.
Monday, February 17, 2014
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