The Unknown Soldiers – Family Reunions

About two years after receiving their psychology degrees from East Carolina University, Pfc. Lane Higson and Pfc. Casey Higson, who are identical twins, signed up to serve their country.

The Myrtle Beach, S.C., natives are now Army communications specialists serving with the Enhanced Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division in Iraq. Spc. Roland Hale recently interviewed the twins at Camp Taji.

“We do everything together, obviously, and we’ve done lots, but we never thought we’d be doing this,” said Lane.

“We’re very lucky to get to work here,” said Casey. “We get to help people, sometimes if it’s just by talking to them.”

With shared dreams, college degrees, warm personalities and great smiles, the Higson twins could have done anything they wanted. They chose to put on identical uniforms and protect America. The 28-year-old sisters are scheduled to return home from Iraq — together, of course — in March.

Sgt. John Williams III is serving in Iraq with Company B, 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 25th Infantry Division. Luckily for the soldier, his dad has a job that allows the son to see his father in war zones. John Williams Jr. is band manager for country music star Trace Adkins, who supports the troops by performing on USO tours.

As Sgt. Shawn Miller explains, the father and son saw each other in Afghanistan during Adkins’ 2008 USO concert series. Yet due to mission priorities and geography, they didn’t expect to see each other during recent performances in Iraq. Unbeknownst to his father, Sgt. Williams reached out to his superiors and asked for some help.

“My chain of command was very supportive, and then I started working details on surprising my dad,” he said.

On Nov. 1, the soldier’s dad received an incredible welcome to Contingency Operating Base Speicher. With Adkins at their side, the father and son embraced, shared some laughs and treasured some unexpected bonus time.

“This is just a thrill that is hard to describe,” exclaimed the elder Williams. “These long deployments are hard on everyone, and just to get to see him here is unbelievable.”

Cpl. Brandon Edgerton works hard as a supply warehouse clerk in Afghanistan. His dedication led the Medical Logistics Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 15 (Forward), 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward) to award a well-deserved Good Conduct Medal to the Marine. But Edgerton didn’t initially expect to receive it from a very special guest.

On Nov. 23 at Camp Leatherneck, 1st Sgt. Evan Unstead, who serves with the Army’s Distribution Company, Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, awarded the Good Conduct Medal to his son. Cpl. Shannon McMillan covered the Afghanistan ceremony.

“It’s the first time we both are in the same place on active duty in uniform,” Edgerton said.

Unstead was thrilled to be able to make the ceremony, and the longtime soldier is also very proud that his son chose a career in the military.

“It keeps him on the straight and narrow,” Unstead said. “So far I have heard nothing more than good things about him. It makes me proud.”

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have deeply impacted thousands of military families, and in some tragic cases, torn them apart. While war’s harsh realities cannot be ignored, these inspiring stories shouldn’t be cast aside either. These families have lent their names to a calling they feel is bigger than themselves, and serve with honor under tough conditions. While we are at home spending time with our loved ones, we thank Edgerton, Unstead, Williams, and the Higson twins for their sacrifices. You give America a reason to celebrate.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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