HADITHA, AL ANBAR, Iraq -- During their deployment to Iraq, many of the Marines and Sailors of 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment have forged a bond as close as any family. But for two Marines with Company K the importance of family runs a little deeper on the battlefield.
“We are all brothers in the Marine Corps,” said Pfc. Francis B. Angelone, a rifleman with 1st Platoon, 2nd Squad. “But all of my brothers are in or have been in the Marine Corps. So, it’s only natural that I would become one of two [in Company K].
The Angelone brothers, James and Francis, grew up in Parma, Ohio, a large suburb outside of Cleveland.
“We lived there all our lives,” said Sgt. James A. Angelone, the squad leader for 1st squad, 1st platoon. “When I saw my other brother graduate from recruit training, I knew I wanted to become a Marine because I wanted to see if I could do it better than him.”
James joined in 1996 and was assigned to a reconnaissance battalion before he separated from the Marine Corps in 2000.
While his older brothers were serving their country, Francis, or “Number 2” as his older brother calls him, was attending “Tri-C”, Cuyahoga Community College, before he decided to join.
“I felt I needed something more, that college wasn’t giving me,” said the soft-spoken 23-year-old. “I needed more discipline and felt the need to help my country.”
Francis’ decision to join spurred James to return to the Marine Corps.
“We were all surprised when he told us about his decision to join,” 27-year-old James said. “I drove him to the recruiter’s office and when I got there, I felt old feelings resurfacing and I decided to rejoin also.”
The Angelone brothers deployed together, but weren’t allowed to be in the same squad for safety reasons.
“I wanted to watch over ‘Number 2’ and help train him to be a better Marine,” James said smiling. “I understand why we couldn’t be in the same squad, but I would have been really upset if he wasn’t in the same platoon.”
According to Francis, having his older brother with him has provided him with a foundation to fall back on when he needs it.
“I like having him here for the moral support he gives me and I often go to him for advice,” Francis said. “But besides that, he treats me like any other Marine.”
The brothers had a scare recently, when Francis was wounded in a mortar attack.
“When the mortar hit I wondered about all those around me and then I thought about where he was,” Francis said. “I felt more confident about him being over here watching over me. The only time he wasn’t watching me, I got hurt. But I love him all the same,” Francis said laughing.
“I heard that he was among the injured and I rushed down to where he was, checking on the other Marines as I went. It was one the worst moments in my life,” James said. “When I saw him standing there, I was so relieved. The gear he was wearing saved his life.”
The Angelone brothers face peril every day in Iraq, but they have each other to turn to if they feel homesick and need someone close to talk too.
“This deployment wouldn’t be going as smoothly if he weren’t here with me,” Francis said. “Our family always knows that if I am alright then so is James.”
“We get care packages from home and we share everything except our ranks,” James said with a grin. “I’m one of the highest ranking among NCOs in the platoon and ‘Number 2’ is the lowest. But I make sure he’s still treated fairly.”
The Angelone brothers continue to fight the war on terrorism abroad and look forward to their return where James has a new life that needs him.
“I’m having my first child and I’m thinking of naming him James after my father,” James paused smiling. “I thought about naming him Francis, but I don’t think we need a ‘Number 3’.”