HADITHA, Iraq -- Growing up on the Navajo Indian Reservation in New Mexico, brothers Lance Cpl. John A. Bailon, 22, and Cpl. Cheston E. Bailon, 21, have been inseparable since childhood.
John and Cheston graduated Shiprock High School in 2001 and 2002, respectively, in their hometown of Shiprock, N.M. Their brotherhood relationship also led them to join the Marine Corps where they now serve as infantrymen with 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment and are currently on their first deployment together in Iraq.
“He was in his freshman year at college when I approached him about joining the Marine Corps Reserves with me,” said Cheston. “He was a little reluctant at first. I eventually talked him into it.”
According to John, there was another reason he joined.
“I think he was a little scared to go in by himself,” said John. “He kept talking about training together, so I went to his recruiter and joined.”
Unfortunately, they were not able to attend Marine Corps recruit training together as they planned because of an administrative error. Instead they completed training two weeks apart.
They were reunited at their military occupational specialty school, School of Infantry, where the brothers found themselves in the same platoon and fire team.
“It was pure luck that we ended up together,” John said smiling. “They were placing Marines in platoons in alphabetical order and no one thought twice when they saw the same two last names.
Through their training, the brothers spent most of their time watching over each other, standing fire watch and spending liberty calls together.
After completing training, they found themselves reporting into to the Albuquerque, N.M., based 4th Reconnaissance Battalion where they received news that members of that unit would be deploying for Iraq.
“We argued at first who would be staying behind and he thought it would be me because I was the youngest,” Cheston said punching his brother playfully. “We when heard that we would both be deploying, we just hoped that we could be together.”
Upon reaching Iraq, the brothers found themselves in the same platoon, but were soon separated and sent to two different locations.
John, along with other Marines from Company L, was sent to Camp Hit to help train the Iraqi National Guard. Cheston, who felt “cheated,” found himself worrying about his brother as John’s base became a focus of insurgent mortar attacks.
John also found himself worrying, but not about his own safety. His little brother was based at the Haditha Dam, which also became a mortar target, and Cheston also went on numerous patrols and operations.
When operations changed in May, the Bailon brothers knew that reunification was on the horizon.
“Everyone was excited to be having some of their friends returning to the dam and they were equally excited to see me and my ‘bro’ reunited,” John said giving his brother a playful push. “Up until that point we just kept in contact via e-mail. It was good to see his cheesy face again.”
“I had just returned from patrol, when I saw him,” said Cheston. “I dropped all my gear right there and hugged him and it felt like we were home at home again.”
For the next few hours, the brothers reminisced on their experiences until John had to prepare for another operation. The brothers viewed their experiences as just another good memory in a long line of memories that they have had since they were children.
“Our family was low-income, and our parents tried very hard to support us. We were happy and we had fun as kids,” John said grinning. “But this deployment reminds us a lot of the time we climbed Mt. Engineer and how excited we were about accomplishing that task.”
“The climb was hard and long, but it was fun,” said Cheston with a big smile. “We will get through this deployment the same way we accomplished every other obstacle we faced ... together.”