Brothers at military academies on 9/11 still serving 11 years later
Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal
Luke and Michael Kelvington were front and center when everything changed on Sept. 11, 2001.
The brothers were freshmen at two of the nation's military academies on the day of the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington.
Luke Kelvington was at the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis.
Michael Kelvington was at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
The brothers, sons of Earl and Sharon Kelvington of Springfield Township, who own Kelvington Auto Service in Akron, are graduates of Springfield High School.
Michael, now 30, is an Army captain and has just completed his fifth combat tour: one in Iraq and four in Afghanistan.
Luke, now 31 and a lieutenant in the Navy, is a student at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I. His career has taken him around the world on the nuclear submarine, the USS Albany. He said he has served from "the warm waters of the Persian Gulf to the ice-cold waters north of the Arctic Circle."
Michael Kelvington, company commander for Battle Company 1-508 Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, said his most recent combat tour in Afghanistan was "especially hard."
Three soldiers in his company were killed in action.
"The hardest part of this [deployment] ... was dealing with the losses," he said.
About 25 Purple Hearts were awarded during this tour as well, he said.
"Never in a million years would I have seen myself as a company commander with multiple tours in charge of about 130 people in the middle of Afghanistan," he said.
He and his wife, Meg, also an Army captain, have a daughter, McKinley, who will turn 1 this month.
In addition to the three paratroopers who died during this tour, he lost a sergeant during a 2009 deployment and several members of his West Point Class of 2005 class and other close friends and former roommates have been killed.
When he returns stateside, he plans a motorcycle trip to visit the families of the three soldiers who died under his command.
On his wrist, he wears a bracelet inscribed with their names: Cpl. Ben Neal, 21, of Orfordville, Wis.; Spc. Sam Watts, 20, of Wheaton, Ill.; and Spc. Jarrod Lallier, 20, of Spokane, Wash.
He also lost a trusted Afghan friend, Gulam Dasteger, during this tour.
"He was one of my most trusted and candid elders I relied on for advice," Kelvington said. "He was a very wise man."
Reuters photographer Shamil Zhumatov took a photograph of a grieving Kelvington near the body of his Afghan friend on May 25.
A story in the fall 2012 USO magazine On Patrol by Malini Wilkes features Kelvington and his relationship with Dasteger.
'Punched on our own turf'
Luke Kelvington remembers 9/11 like it was yesterday. The television in the classroom was on as he sat down.
"The professor was reaching to turn off the television when the second plane hit the South Tower," he said. The professor left the television on.
Classes were canceled. He remembers how Capt. Samuel J. "Sam" Locklear III, now an admiral and commander of Pacific Command, got on the intercom to let the students know what the attack might mean.
"We had been punched on our own turf," Kelvington said. "We could no longer focus primarily on adversaries of equal parity, but would spend much time and energy against a different kind of enemy -- one that would likely not be wearing a uniform."
He said it is important that "Americans become more informed about what our military does on a day-to-day basis."
Kelvington and his wife, Joanna, have a 1-year-old son, Monroe.
He spoke of both his and his brother's lives since 9/11.
"Each service plays a different role," Luke Kelvington said. "I often think about how different our lives are -- one an Army Ranger and the other a submariner."
He said the Navy plays a huge role around the world in deterring aggression and, if deterrence fails, the Navy is "equipped to help win our nation's wars."
"Seventy percent of the world is covered by water, 80 percent of the Earth's population lives near the water and 90 percent of the commerce travels on water," he said.
He said family is important and "our wives and children go through long stretches when the burdens of home and the voids of our absences are placed directly on their shoulders."
God, he said, "blessed us both" with supporting wives and families and extended families.
"We work together as instruments of our nation's policies in order to preserve this great nation."
Honoring the fallen
Michael Kelvington said dealing with the loss of so many comrades has been difficult.
"But I think 11 years into this, quitting isn't an option," he said.
"By continuing the mission," he said, he hopes to honor the memory of all of his comrades who have been killed.
"You don't get to pick and choose who you fight for, but I do it for the ones that I love," said the Army officer.
His hope is for the continued safety of the citizens at home.
"If they can lay their heads on a pillow at night safely, that is all that matters to me," he said.
Sharon Kelvington said she and her husband are "incredibly proud" of their sons.
"When they are gone, we do worry and fear for their safety; however, the fear and worry are balanced out by the many moments of overwhelming pride and awe we have," she said.
A third son, Kyle Kelvington, 28, is a teacher at Archbishop Hoban High School.
"This journey has shown us what the true heart of a patriot looks like," she said.
And the parents turn to prayer for comfort.
"We know what they are doing is making a difference for our nation."
Distributed by MCT Information Services