Band of Brothers

Brian Anderson, right, and his brothers Dustin, left, and Brady, center.

His parents didn’t say goodbye to just one son — they said goodbye to three.

One by one, the Anderson boys of Norfolk, Neb., answered the call that sang in their life’s blood — the call of service. First was Dustin, who enlisted in the Nebraska Army National Guard in 1998, then Brian in 2001, and finally Brady in 2004. And then all three deployed together for the first time, half a world away to Iraq, where their company split and Brian also had to say his goodbyes.

“I remember my mom telling me she didn’t want me to go,” Brian recalled. “I said, ‘Mom, somebody’s got to do it, why can’t it be me?’”

Luck was on the side of the Andersons, though — they reunited at the end of their deployment and came home together.

It was during Brian’s second deployment, to Afghanistan, that their good fortune took a hit.

In 2011, Brian — an E6 squad leader for the 189th Transportation Company — was part of a joint operation providing security for an agri-business development team near the Paktia province. The ADT was providing critical agricultural assistance to the local Afghanis.

“They worked with (the local sheiks) on everything from education, and women’s education, to how to properly care for animals,” Brian explained. “Even watershed projects and how they could use runoff from the mountains when the snow would melt. The ADT would help them figure out how to use that water for crops during the growing season.

“It was a pretty cool thing to be a part of, it was definitely unique on its own.”

On one particular day, Brian was rotated into a quick reaction force, which got the call to render assistance to a downed Chinook. While returning to the forward operating base, Brian’s truck rolled over an explosive, the IED detonating directly under his seat in the truck.

Brian’s entire crew survived, but the shockwave dealt him a significant blow — he was flown back to the states for surgery on a shattered ankle and leg. He healed and continued to serve in the National Guard, but the pain of his injuries finally caught up with him. He’s outprocessing this year, and because he needs dual status for his employment as a federal technician, he’ll be looking for a new career, too.

“I gotta figure out what I want to be when I grow up, I suppose,” Brian quipped with a genial laugh, adding that the blessing in disguise would be spending more quality time with his daughter Lakyn and wife Brooke.

Despite his injuries and the long-term consequences, Brian said he would serve his country 1,000 times over again.

“It’s humbling,” the veteran said. “Afghanistan (was like) taking a step back in time, in how they operate. You see things like that, dangerous places, and you realize you don’t have it bad. You learn to respect and love what you have.

“Blood doesn’t make you family, but what we went through, that made you family. That would have to be at the top of my list, the family that we formed.”

Katy Moore can be reached at katy.moore@lee.net.