1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division
GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan, April 9, 2012 – As Army Warrant Officer Weldon Malbrough Jr. goes about his business on this dust-choked, dirt-basket-rimmed base here, he is one of many -- a paratrooper among paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division’s “Devils in Baggy Pants” 1st Brigade Combat Team.
The 30-year-old force-protection staff officer also is one of three Malbroughs now deployed to Afghanistan. Jordan and Jessica, the family twins, followed Weldon into the Army, and with the pace of deployments in recent years, it was only a matter of time until their deployments overlapped.
It’s not the first time their mother, Windy, has worried about more than one child in a war zone. Army Staff Sgt. Jordan Malbrough enlisted in 2005 and joined Weldon in Baghdad as part of the surge in 2007. Jordan now serves as an artillery radar operator with the 25th Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade at Forward Operating Base Apache in Afghanistan’s Khost province.
In recent years, the idea of families sending multiple children to the front lines has become part of the national consciousness thanks in large part to the movie, "Saving Private Ryan," in which three brothers are killed during World War II, and the last surviving brother is caught up in the Normandy invasion.
Windy has seen the movie, but it’s one she has never internalized, with three of her four children deployed to Afghanistan.
“It’s something they chose to do,” she said. “To keep peace with my mind, I try to think happy thoughts.” She still lives in metropolitan New Orleans, where she raised her children. Another son, Philip, works on an offshore oil rig.
“There is no worry-free time for mom,” Windy said. “My kids are my heroes.”
“She is such a strong woman,” Jessica said.
Jordan enlisted at 17, and Jessica earned a college degree before enlisting. She was interested in an Army program to become a physician assistant or nurse, but that required three years of service. While her brothers pushed her hard to “drop a packet” and become an officer, she chose to enlist as a combat medic.
“I didn’t want to push papers for three years,” Jessica said.
Sgt. Jessica Malbrough deployed for the first time with the 4th Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade to Kandahar, Afghanistan, a year ago. She has worked in the orderly room, provided cultural support on missions to capture insurgent leaders, and called in medevac helicopters to evacuate wounded soldiers.
“In the Army, you meet people and gain experiences that you just can’t get anywhere else,” she said.
The Malbroughs are a tight-knit family. Both sets of grandparents live within a few blocks. Being away from home for so long is difficult, Jessica said. It helps, she added, that she can call the man she looks up to the most, Weldon, or her best friend, Jordan. They relate to her Army service, and they’re even in the same time zone -- a big deal when one is on the other side of the world from home, she said.
Back home, Windy uses her kids as a conversation piece with patrons of the accounting office that she manages. Most of the time, she feels like she is serving alongside her children, she said.
“People just say, ‘Wow.’ They don’t understand how three siblings can be there at the same time,” she said. “They all have great love for their country.”
Weldon said people sometimes note that as the eldest of the three, he probably feels responsible for his siblings’ well-being.
“We all enlisted during a time of war,” Weldon said. “We all knew we were going to deploy. It was only a matter of time until they overlapped. I appreciate people’s sentiments, but we all took an oath to do what we are doing.”