Bond grows from childhood to Army

By ANGELA OLIVER | Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky. | Published: January 26, 2014

Onitsha Tutt and Quetta Winstead became best friends in kindergarten. 

Though Winstead moved to California when she got married, she and Tutt remained in synch. Because of the distance, they didn't suspect that the boys in their bellies would one day be as close.

Winstead's mother fell ill, so she moved back to Owensboro in 2000. Then, her son, Kenneth Wright, joined Tutt's son, Yantae Williams, at Cravens Elementary School.

"They talked and played jokes a lot in class in high school," Tutt said. "The teacher told us, so one day, Quetta went and sat in the class. They still joked around, and they've been cutting up ever since."

"They weren't bad boys at all, just silly," Winstead said. "They'd do things they knew the other would respond to. They fought each other sometimes, like kids do."

After school, the guys often played basketball on Locust Street. Wright's grandmother lived across the street from Williams. Their sports interests continued to baseball and football at Owensboro Middle and Owensboro High schools. 

College separated them for a few years — Wright attended Western Kentucky University while Williams attended a junior college to play baseball for two years and transferred to Kentucky Wesleyan College.

When college didn't go as planned, they decided to join the Army.

Wright left for basic training in South Carolina in March 2012. A few weeks later, Wright heard from his best friend. Williams called to tell Wright he'd enlisted that month and would soon join him.

"Yantae's dad gave our kids that classic talk — you can either go to school, work or join the military," Tutt said. 

Though her husband Andre served in the Army, as well as her oldest son who has never been deployed, Tutt said she wasn't initially comfortable with Williams enlisting.

"It just seemed too unpredictable," she said. "We need the troops. But, I'm a mom, and I just didn't want anything to happen to my son."

Williams said a quote — "Comfort is the enemy of achievement" — from investor and author Farrah Gray was part of his decision to enlist.

"I was addicted to being comfortable, so I challenged myself," Army Pfc.Williams said via email. "And would like to challenge others to do things outside their comfort zone, because those are the times you have to search from within and reach to your higher power that He will lead you in the right direction."

Winstead said she was a bit sad, because "joining the Army means you'll be on the ground, not like other branches," though she comes from a military family. Her husband, Kenneth Sr., was in the Navy. Her father and several other relatives also served in different branches.

Army Spc. Wright said he's enjoying his time in service.

"I'm just taking it one term at a time, but if things continue to go well for me, I could see the military as a career," he said in a Facebook message."

"Whether I stay in or not, it will always feel good to say I was of a part of the strongest organization in the world," Williams said. "Feels good to know that you are serving something that is bigger than yourself."

After basic training, the men were stationed in Vilseck, Germany. In summer 2013, they were deployed to Afghanistan, a few weeks apart and in different units.

They're in Kandahar Province. Wright is at the Kandahar Airfield, one of the largest bases for military aircraft. Williams is at Camp Lindsey, a base about 10 minutes from the airfield.

Williams' job isn't combat-related, though he's been on convoys from his base to others. 

"I haven't run into any combat yet, thank God," Wright said.

They'll return to Germany in April and plan to explore the country when they have time.

Williams, one of triplets and two other siblings, and Wright, the oldest of three, said being away from family is harder than facing the risk of combat. Skype, text and Facebook messages keep them in touch, despite the nine-hour time difference.

"I just try to send my mom and sisters pictures of me working just so they see that I'm alright," Wright said.

Tenth Street Baptist Church, Williams' church, also sends care packages.

The men are enrolled at the University of Maryland University College Europe. Williams, 22, is studying business administration and Wright, 23, is studying human resources.

They recalled a few memories, both saying their favorite was OHS' 2009 run to the state baseball championship. They celebrated by dumping a bucket of ice-cold water onto their teammates.

"We lost, but the whole time there with the team was pretty amazing," Wright said.

"Our friendship is strong because of all the special moments we have had," Williams said. "If anybody knows me and him, (they know) we are very cheerful guys and always tend to make people laugh."

Tutt and Winstead said they're proud of their sons. 

"They remind me of how we grew up together," Tutt said. "They have a unique friendship, and it's nice to see them intentionally keep it strong."


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