Marine, Soldier In Iraq More Than 'Brothers-In-Arms'
(May 17, 2009)
Camp Victory Iraq - Marine Sgt. Thomas P. Cottorone (left), a squad leader with Company A, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines, and his older brother Army Staff Sgt. Michael G. Cottorone, an explosive ordnance disposal technician with 760th Ordnance Company, EOD, Task Force Troy, take a break from their normal duties while aboard Camp Slayer in Baghdad, Iraq, May 5, 2009.
| ||CAMP VICTORY, Iraq (5/11/2009)|
Deployments usually mean saying goodbye to the ones you love for a long time. But for two brothers from Rochester, N.Y., it meant saying hello.
Marine Sgt. Thomas P. Cottorone and his older brother, Army Staff Sgt. Michael G. Cottorone, reunited at Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq, May 4, when their time in country overlapped. Michael was headed home after a 15-month deployment and Tommy had just arrived for a seven-month tour.
"I wanted to come see him when I found out I was deploying to Iraq," said the Marine squad leader with Company A, 3rd Battalion 3rd Marines, stationed at Camp Al Taqaddum, Iraq. "That was my biggest goal ... somehow, somewhere."
Growing up, the Cottorone brothers were always together.
|"When we hit high school we became very close," said Michael, an Army explosive ordnance disposal technician with the 760th Ordnance Company, EOD, Task Force Troy. “Our neighbors were the same age as us so it was usually just the four of us."|
The boys spent most of their summers doing what boys do -- constantly fighting and beating each other up, running through the neighborhood, and playing baseball.
"His senior year we got even closer," Michael recalled. "It was the summertime before he left for boot camp. We went to concerts all the time together and we'd get home late only to wake up early to go work for our dad.”
Once Tommy went to boot camp in 2004, Michael decided to join the Army. Along with the pains of seeing his brother leave, he was looking for a greater sense of accomplishment beyond his associate's degree.
"One of the big things was he joined the Marines and I felt bad because he was leaving. I've always considered him my best friend," Michael explained. "So I left for the Army one month after Tom left for the Marine Corps. I wanted to serve my country ... I wanted to do something. And I thought it would be cool to run around and blow stuff up."
So while Tommy was an infantryman, Michael became an EOD technician; a job that made him proud to work even harder when he found out his brother was deploying to the same country.
"In my job we help decrease the IED (improvised explosive device) threat here," Michael explained. "When I found out he was deploying, I took a lot more pride in what I do because I knew it might increase the chances of him coming home. I would be devastated if anything happened to him."
With both brothers in their fifth year of serving their country, they haven't been able to spend much time together. But the bond they've made throughout their younger years has kept them going in the months apart.
"I thought about him all the time during deployment," Michael said. "I've talked to a lot of ‘Joes' that only talk to family when something bad happens. I don't like that. I like knowing what's going on. I like the strong family tie. I'm really glad I'm not an only child."
When they found out their time in country was going to overlap they both did what it took to try to get together.
"Our company was spread really thin, so it was going to be hard for me to go see him," Michael said. "If we didn't get this it would be like two years before we'd see each other. He was going to have to work it from his end."
And that's what Tommy did.
As soon as he found out he was deploying to Iraq, Tommy persistently asked his first sergeant for permission to go see his brother. After finally receiving approval from his chain of command, the trip was planned and he and their cousin, Lance Cpl. Samuel A. Giancursio, a rifleman who is also in 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines, were on their way.
Communicating only through e-mails made it difficult for the Cottorones to find each other once they arrived at Camp Victory.
"I called every compound on this base and nobody had a clue where he was or who he was," Tommy exclaimed. "Me and Sammy walked all over for four hours. Then he got tired so I dropped him off to sleep and I continued to walk and ride a bus for another six hours, looking for my brother.”
Tommy said before he gave up, he checked his e-mail one more time. While signing in to use the computers, he saw his brother's name on the list.
"I couldn't believe it so I went around the corner and there he was, so I slapped him. And that's where our journey began," Tommy finished with a big grin.
Both brothers were filled with excitement when they finally found each other.
"It felt really good [because] I haven't seen him in so long," Tommy said. “Not talking for so long made me remember how much I love him and care about him.”
“I don't think I can describe how happy I am that I got to see him. And I'm glad Sammy got to come see him too."
The Cottorones and their cousin spent several days doing what guys do - beating each other up, lifting weights together, talking about their family, and catching up on everything they've missed.
"I look up to him [because] he's proud to be who he is," Michael said. He wants to come over here, do his job, and get home safe. He's a very selfless person."
"It's the summer time and we always work together and hang out,” Michael continued sadly. “I'm definitely going to miss him especially [because] I haven't had a summer in five years."
When their short reunion came to an end, it seemed as if they were back to where they had left off the last time they were together. They said their farewells knowing that they'd see each other again, somewhere, somehow.
Article and photo by Marine Cpl. M. M. Bravo
2nd Marine Logistics Group
Reprinted from Marine Corps News
Comment on this article