Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence Day

They were born on April 18th at 0218 and 0228. That's military speak for 2:18 a.m. and 2:28 a.m. They were named before they were born. If they were boys, the firstborn would be Daniel and the second would be David. Since the moment when that tiny egg split in the first days after conception, they've been extraordinary.

Their indisputable due date was April 4th. They were born exactly two weeks past that date. They weighed in a 6 lbs 8 oz and 6 lbs 14 oz. - more than their singleton sisters weighed when they were born.

They were sweet, easy babies. We laid them on the couch on their bellies head-to-head and they almost always reached for each other. When one rolled over, the other rolled over - usually within a day - same with crawling, walking, potty training, talking, etc. And they took turns being first - so much the same and yet different. Each had his own personality but both were sweet, loving, adventurous, and kind.

At school they had their own friends, but as one teacher put it, each always had his eye on the other.

As soon as they were old enough, they joined Boy Scouts and both excelled. It was such a good fit for them. They were competitive and motivated and earned their badges with pride. One Memorial Day morning, after they discovered numerous large turtles laying eggs in the empty lot across the street, they headed for the parade downtown to honor fallen soldiers.
They were the flag bearers and I thought my heart would burst with pride. Little did I know it was only the beginning.

They did well in high school both academically and athletically. But they didn't do well enough to earn scholarships and, since we had six children, college was looking like a dream that might not come true. One day they came home and told us their football coach told them that there were scholarships available and the main prerequisite was good character. So, with some trepidation but no hesitation, I urged them to pursue this course and they found their niche.

There was a military school in Missouri looking for boys like ours. They applied and were accepted. They went to summer camp at Ft. Knox, Kentucky. And did well. They completed the first year of college at Kemper Military School and College and moved up the cadet ranks very quickly.
The second summer they went to camp at Ft. Lewis, Washington and it became more and more apparent that our boys were becoming their own men. I tear up when I think of that feeling of them slipping away. But that was mixed with pride because they seemed to earn every accolade and accomplish every goal with determination and aplomb.

One elusive medal was the exception. For three summers they tried for the Army's Expert Infantryman's Badge, a very prestigious and hard-to-get award. The first summer they missed. The next summer resulted in another rare miss. The third summer they started out with 98 other young men. Three of that group of 100 earned their badges that summer. Two of them were Dan and Dave.

Here they are being sworn in to the United States Army.

Not too long after that, they went to Airborne School. I don't think much can compare with watching your beloved twins jump out of an airplane. But of course they both did their jumps bravely and they both graduated.

And then there was Ranger School. Those words can freeze the heart of any mother who's sons are thinking of going. And mine was doubly frozen because they both went. It's grueling beyond description and the graduates are young men of great strength, determination, and fortitude. They graduated after being tested to the greatest extent possible - both physically and mentally.

At this point, it was pretty much assumed that they would be career Army men. The fit was perfect and before we knew it, they were both Captains.

I've often pondered the chances that the year that they were Company Commanders, the United States would invade Iraq. The odds were so against it. When they joined, we weren't involved in any big military conflicts and it seemed like, if I held my breath just right, they would join the Army, get an education, see the world, and retire after twenty years. Who knew that so much more could be involved.

Who knew that while the world watched on TV the start of the bombing and the invasion, we pictured our sons somewhere in the desert that spanned Kuwait and Iraq with a company of men - ready to lead.

Both were commanders of Engineer companies. One of their companies was in a Tank Battalion and the other was in an Infantry Battalion. So as the Third Infantry Division (ID) leapfrogged to Baghdad, our sons led the way. There were two large mine fields that had to be breached in order for the Third ID to enter the capital city. Each of our sons' companies cleared one. There was a bridge that was loaded with explosives to keep the U. S. Army from crossing it. One of their companies had to secure it ensuring the army's progress. There was the dangerous and dramatic Thunder Run through Baghdad. One of them was in it. The other waited at the Baghdad International Airport where they saw each other for the first time in almost two months.

They were both nominated and received the Silver Star, the third highest military decoration awarded for valor in the face of the enemy. They're also Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipients along with a myriad of other ribbons and medals whose meanings are too diverse to list here.

They've been stationed together about half the time they've been in the service and they've had a lot of fun with that. At Ft. Leonard Wood, they shared a duplex. The nameplates on each end of the long house announced that Captain Hibner lived there. More than one person asked them how they got the whole house to themselves until they found out there were two Captain Hibners and they looked just alike (especially in uniform). And it seemed like every time they met someone new, that person said, "Oh, you're one of the twins". To this day, they're always running into someone who greets them like a long lost friend but who they've never laid eyes on. The person is getting reacquainted with the wrong twin.

Then there was the early morning run that Captain Dave participated in. He was a forerunner in the group and as he passed a driveway, a young soldier not paying enough attention, hit him with his car. Fortunately Dave wasn't hurt but imagine how that young man felt when he looked at the guy he hit and felt like he was looking in the eyes of his Company Commander for it was one of Captain Dan's men driving the car. He had to have been thinking, "this just isn't my day".

So that's a synopsis of our wonderful sons. They're fathers of seven children between them and the children call their uncle, Uncle Daddy, because he looks just like their dad and he's closer than an uncle. Here they are on the 4th of July, 2009 with Harry and I, their wives and their children.

They both renovate every house they live in and spend a lot of their 'leave' time helping us with our house. Two summers ago we got a new roof thanks to these wonderful boys. They're both so nice and so good and so perfect (at least in my eyes).

And they're almost exactly like the soldier who belongs to your neighbor or your fellow congregant or your co-worker. They're loved to the tips of their toes and treasured beyond measure. And they're deployable so their wives and their children spend Father's Days and Christmases and Fourth of Julys without them. We write to them, send them care packages, and count the days until they come home but nothing fills that empty space that they leave behind. And all we can do is pray that the empty space is temporary.

They're the men and women who have fought and are fighting for the ideal that this country stands for. Without them, we might not be writing whatever we want in our blogs; and we might not be free to start our online businesses and Etsy shops. Freedom is the gift of this country. It's something that our ancestors started when they came here and their descendants fought for when that freedom was at stake.

The American soldier. Our sons. Your sons, cousins, neighbors, nephews.... as it's always been - the best fighting for the rest.

And this Independance Day we'll all pray for their safe return; and that freedom is a gift that our descendants will forever enjoy.

This post first appeared at theiheartblog where I guest posted while Bec is on vacation.


  1. OK, it was your turn to make me cry. That was a beautiful post. You have every right to be VERY proud of these two amazing young men. Thanks for sharing them with us.

  2. This story made me cry..What a great post. You have a right to be so proud of your sons, and I hope and pray that I can raise mine to be only half of what your twins turned out to be. Thanks for sharing, and we will continue praying for their safe return home. Thank you Dan and Dave for all you have done for our country...

  3. Teary here. Thank you for sharing the story of your boys with us. They are amazing men with great integrity and honor. That is obvious. I pray for their safe return to you and their families.

  4. What a GREAT post about my AMAZING brothers! Thanks for taking the time to share their paths to success. I always tell people that my brothers are complete overachievers, but that's just one of the many of thousands of reasons why they really are so 'perfect'.

  5. Well Mom, this is the best post ever. You really did a good job honoring them today! I'm just so proud of them when I read this! You really got me choked up. I love the pictures, too!

  6. Oh Mary, how unbelieveably proud you must be of your exceptional sons. This post brought tears to my eyes. Your sons are amazing. I'm proud to have men like them protecting us all. I will certainly keep them (and you) in my prayers.

  7. I love this incredible dedication to your two amazing sons. We, too, live the military life and it's one that is so, so bittersweet. Along with the incredible pride in the ones who serve comes the fear and sadness when their service takes them away from us.

  8. This is such a beautiful tribute! I know you are so very proud of them, as you should be.

  9. I came here from Beth's blog. What a beautiful tribute to two amazing men. Who they are also speaks volumes about you and your husband. You should all be so very, very proud.

    As the mom of two boys, this made me cry. I can only imagine the mixture of love, pride and fear you must feel.

    Thank you for sharing them with all of us. I've prayed for them before when Beth has written about them and I will pray again.

  10. what a wonderful post! you have two amazing sons. thanks for sharing. we are so grateful for everything they do

  11. Your heartfelt post made me cry. Thank you for the reminder of what soldiers across the country do for US, so that we may live the freedom they protect.

  12. I found you from over at Beth's blog...and am glad I did! The pride you feel for your boys is so obvious (and well deserved)! Not only are they amazing soldiers, but amazing sons, brothers, and fathers. It's rare to find all those wonderful qualities in one man, yet they BOTH have managed to become extrordinary people. God Bless you, and yours and thank you Dan and Dave for everything you have sacrificed for our country!

  13. Wonderful writing about your two sons! They are amazing and I thank them for their service!

  14. Oh, and thank you for the sharing the shirtless photo. Maybe for MY birthday, you could just do an entire post of pictures of the boys? Some shirtless and some in uniform? I'm really not picky.;)

  15. What a tribute! I am teary-eyed reading your post. You must feel so much pride for these amazing boys of yours. Thank you for sharing that. Their service to our country is beyond amazing and so admirable.

  16. Wow, I have chills and tears. This was so beautiful. Please thank your sons for me and my family and may they both return home safely again. I pray that they do.

    Such a beautiful, wonderful post...


  17. What a great post. Though I don't know your sons, I am very proud of them too. I live in such a great country and often take the day to day liberties I have for granted. Your post has reminded me that my freedom is a result of sacrifice of others. I am humbled by your post and thankful beyond words for their dedicated service to our country. Thank you for sharing their story.

  18. Oh Mary....this is amazing. You have done such a wonderful job of highlighting these wonderful men of yours. I am so so grateful for wonderful men like your sons who signify what is is we all celebrate this weekend. Bless them and their families. You and your husband should be proud, you have raised some good people.

  19. WOW- what a beautiful post. I thank your sons for keeping mine safe.

  20. What a wonderful tribute to your boys. It speaks volumes of you and your husband for the wonderful men they are today.

    Thank you so much for giving the world two wonderful men that fight for our freedoms!

  21. Found you through Beth's blog. This is an amazingly beautiful post. We are so honored to have your sons defending our freedom. Bless you and your husband for raising such wonderful men!


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