HADITHA, Iraq -- Two Marines from 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment prove that being a part of the Corps is literally a brotherhood.
Corporals Willie O. Watkins, 23, and Clifton C. Watkins, 22, are brothers from McComb, Miss., spent their childhood growing up together and are now deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“Growing up we did everything together,” said Willie. “We lived together until after high school when went to college. This is the first time in almost five years we lived this close and I have missed it.”
After graduating South Pike High School in 1999, Willie attended Jackson State University on an academic scholarship.
Clifton, who graduated from the same high school in 2000, attended Mississippi Valley State on an academic scholarship.
While attending college, Willie decided to join the Marine Corps and his experience influenced his younger brother to also join.
“In my freshman year I realized college wasn’t quite meeting my expectations,” said Willie, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in advertising. “I wanted to broaden my horizons and the Marine Corps did just that.”
Clifton saw his brother’s transformation into a Marine and it inspired him.
“After I saw him graduate, I saw a change in him for the better,” said Clifton, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. “He had a sense of confidence, pride and he was a Marine. I figured if he could do it, I could do it and possibly even do it better.”
They both attended recruit training and Marine Combat Training, and then returned to college and graduated within a year of one another.
The brothers attended separate colleges pursuing higher education; Willie, was enrolled at the University of Mississippi, School of Law, while Clifton, went to the University of Alabama, Department of Chemistry. When they both received orders that their unit would be deploying, they ended up together.
“We were prepared for it. We knew what we had signed up for,” said Clifton. “This will not interfere with any of our plans. We are just going to adapt and overcome.”
In many ways, deploying was easier for the brothers because they trusted each other; at the same time, this meant there would be more to worry about, said Willie.
The Watkins brothers had one scare when a mortar struck the motor pool and Clifton was hurt during the incident.
“We were finishing up with our work for the day when it happened,” Clifton said. “The Corpsman reacted quickly, but my brother was quicker.”
Within minutes, Willie went to check to see if Clifton was okay and if there was anything he could do to help.
“I was relieved to see he wasn’t hurt badly,” said Willie. “I felt more comfortable being there and talking to him myself.”
The Watkins brothers’ closeness also keeps the feeling of homesickness away because they often keep contact with their family back home.
“We share all of our care packages no matter who it’s addressed to or who it’s from,” Willie said. “If one of us is out on a mission, the other will let our family back home know that we are alright.”
Even though they are close, they still have their differences that usually end in some of the more entertaining conversations.
“We sometimes get into arguments, just to see if one knows more than the other,” Clifton said. “It’s very competitive and our personalities are usually the cause of these clashes.”
Clifton is more laidback while Willie considers himself more energetic.
“We are really different, but then we are alike in a lot of ways,” said Willie.
Even with their differences, they still agree that this deployment would not be going as smoothly if they were separated.
“This deployment has been really good. We had good superiors who have been real good at keeping us close,” Clifton said. “I like having him here and I couldn’t imagine him not being here.”
For the Watkins brothers, this deployment will add to their other shared experiences.
“In a place like this it’s good to look over and see someone you know and who knows about you,” Willie said. “This deployment has given us more memories, that we will look back on when we get older. Just like our childhood memories then, we are still doing everything together now.”