Ken MacSwan illustration
It’s not unusual for Marines to call each other “brother.” But several Leathernecks who served in Afghanistan with the 1st Battalion 23rd Marines (1/23, a USMC Reserve unit based in Houston, Texas) gave full meaning to the term. These men were brothers in every sense of the word, not just in arms. Five such pairs blood brothers served with 1/23 in Helmand Province. They were the Lone Star Battalion and had been in the thick of the fight in Afghanistan. The entire team made it home intact. The unit had trained at Camp Pendleton, with a heavy focus on IED defense. In Afghanistan, they survived many IED explosions, one of which was so powerful it threw a 17-ton MRAP through the air.
Like all USMC reserve units, 1/23 is a real Marine outfit whose mission is to provide trained combat support personnel to the active component. These soldiers “locate, close with, and destroy the enemy by fire.” In other words, their mission is to be Marines. The specific mission of 1/23 in Afghanistan, aside from patrolling and security work, was to work with and train Afghan security forces and to develop their nation-building tasks, things the Marines have proven adept in.
In July 2011, Alpha Company, 1/23 and the Afghan Uniformed Police led a mission in Delaram that was arguably the largest confiscation of opium poppy seeds in history. Nearly 500,000 pounds of seeds were confiscated in southwestern Afghanistan during the joint raid by NATO and Afghan National Security Forces. The Lone Star Battalion had ranged all over Helmand Province from their base at Camp Leatherneck. As President Reagan noted, they will never have to wonder if they made a difference.
No strangers to the sandbox, Corporal Daniel Beans from Gainesville, Florida, and Lance Corporal Joshua Beans from Tampa, Florida, served together in Iraq in 2009. The Beans brothers weren’t home from Iraq very long when they decided to go to Afghanistan together. The surge had been announced, but their Marine Reserve unit in Florida was not scheduled to deploy—the 1/23 in Texas was. The two men moved to Texas to “start a lawn maintenance business in Plano.” It just so happened that that move enabled them to join the Lone Star Battalion.
“We kinda felt like we had something to give back to our country. You know, we saw the legacy that we were handed down. And we kinda realized, but without being pushed, that, you know, there’s so many other people that have given so much more than we did that we can enjoy the life that we enjoy,” they told 60 Minutes. “It was like being with your best friend, you know…we lived in a little mud hut…for seven months.” CBS’ Lara Logan asked them, “That’s a lotta trouble to go to, to go and fight in a war that not many Americans believe is worth fighting these days?” Daniel Beans replied, “That’s the great thing about America. Everybody’s entitled to their opinion.”