Army Twins Together In Pursuit Of Purpose
by U.S. Army Chad Menegay, Fort Gregg-Adams
November 4, 2023
The boundless life ahead of a teen nearing high school graduation can feel like either a massive weight or a vast liberation.
The mounting pressure to make a move into adulthood can often seemingly come down to a single decision.
Job. College. Military.
Genetics and personality can be a final factor because the decision is ultimately personal.
For a pair of fraternal twins from Prattville, Alabama and a military family, though, the choice was identical.
Pfc. Amiri Legrear and Pfc. Jacquori Legrear, 19, credit many people, but especially they credit their mother and grandfather for helping them make the well-informed decision to join the Army.
October 16, 2023 - U.S. Army Pfc. Amiri Legrear (right) and Pfc. Jacquori Legrear, 19-year old twins and Advanced Individual Training students in Romeo Company, 262nd Quartermaster Battalion, at Fort Gregg-Adams. The twins (see inset image) were raised in a military family with their mother, retired Sgt. 1st Class Lakeshia Young, and their grandfather, retired 1st Sgt. Harold Legrear, having served as career Soldiers.(Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Army photo by Chad Menegay and courtesy photo from the Legrear twins.)
They grew up with the Army, given that their mother, retired Sgt. 1st Class Lakeshia Young, served from before they were born until 2018.
The Legrear twins, who are currently training together as water treatment specialists, said they didn’t think much about the impact and influence the Army had on their active childhoods until it was time to make a decision about their first major step into adulthood.
It was the middle of basketball season, senior year at Marbury High School, Deatsville, Alabama, for these two popular athletes.
Jacquori, typically a laid-back personality, was feeling pressure that it was crunch time and that he needed to make a move, he said. So, he went to the recruiting station and signed his contract.
“Joining the Army is the best thing I’ve ever done,” Jacquori said. “The last year [of high school basketball] I was the man. I was the MVP. I was that guy, and I got to show people what I can do. It was the last hoorah, and it was amazing.”
Jacquori, a 5’8” point guard, added that joining the Army was key to helping him play stress-free and focusing on simply enjoying the game.
Despite his skills and successes in basketball, Jacquori said he recognized that as an undersized guard his chances at the NBA were limited.
“You’ll get to high school, and then you’ll see if you’ll make the NBA or not,” Jacquori said.
As well, Jacquori was not looking forward to potentially playing college basketball in a restrictive, overly-structured system.
He wanted freedom, and he saw the Army as a choice that offered more independence and opportunity.
Retired Army 1st Sgt. Harold Legrear, the twins’ grandfather and a Department of the Army civilian Information Technology specialist for Montgomery Recruiting Command, had referred his grandsons to Staff Sgt. Tiffany Gulley, a recruiter at the Prattville Recruiting Station.
She checked in with them every once in a while throughout high school. Harold, who also served in recruiting as a Soldier for 16 years, naturally talked of the advantages to serving one’s country in the Army.
“I had to go into my recruiter role, so we set up a chess board to display what was important to [Jacquori] as far as being able to get everything [he wants] at a young age,” Harold said. “He took the benefits of the Army and ran with it.”
It was a surprise to the family that Jacquori joined before Amiri, Harold said, because Jacquori had been debating between college and military.
Lakeshia had taken him on college visits.
Harold, who has 41 years of federal service, laid out the pros and cons of college versus the Army on the chess board. He talked about the difficulty of both working full-time and attending college full-time.
“Do you want your finances to come from Mom,” asked Harold, “or do you want your own money, make your own decisions, have your own insurance?”
Harold said they talked about quality of life.
The twins always looked up to their uncle, Harold Legrear Jr., who also served in the Army as a dental specialist, Harold Sr. said.
“He was able to buy a brand new car,” Harold Sr. said. “They were able to see what he was able to do at such a young age. He had a handle on his own finances, and he was able to take college classes while he was in.”
Harold Sr. showed Jacquori how the military could help him make a plethora of moves. He helped him visualize his life.
“I was painting a picture,” Harold Sr. said. “You can play sports in the Army, go out for the post team. If you’re good enough you can play for the all-Army team.”
For Amiri, who came into the world two minutes before Jacquori, coming into the Army later than his twin was a special kind of pressure, and, well, an eye-opener.
He showed his contemplative nature and stubbornness for two months.
“My family was on me,” Amiri said. “They were like, ‘your younger brother joined. What are you waiting for?’”
For a time, Amiri’s answer was that he wanted to go to college or try vocational schools.
“I had a bunch of ideas in mind of what I wanted to do, but I never had the motivation and drive to even get them done, so there was no point,” Amiri said. “My parents even saw that my motivation wasn’t there for those types of schools. They said, ‘you can still do this stuff, just join the Army first, and that sets a good starting foundation for your life.’”
Now that Amiri sees the military with more of an open mind, he has new motivation and drive to accomplish ideas he had previously been sitting on, such as pursuing cosmetology, culinary school and starting his own business.
“I see my drive has really switched from ‘I don’t want to that, I’m too lazy, I’ll go with the flow’ type of thing to where I’m waking up in the mornings at 4 a.m., getting ready to go do P.T.,” Amiri said. “I’m like, ‘dang, man, this has really changed.’ I feel very motivated like every single second of the day.”
Amiri said he doesn’t feel the way he used to feel in high school, tired or apathetic.
“I’m motivated to be out there training, and it’s really inspirational,” Amiri said. “My nonchalant attitude, that’s all gone, never to be seen again, and I’m glad of that. I think a lot more people in this world could use that.”
Amiri feels capable as a Soldier, well trained and prepared to make a difference, to fight if needed.
Amiri said that his grandfather, Harold Sr., sat him down and showed him a way to instantly make an impact on his country and the world by joining the U.S. Army and fighting for something that’s bigger than himself.
I’ve always been thinking about what my purpose in life would be,” Amiri said. “I want to leave my impact on the world.”
Amiri considered potential situations he could end up in as a Soldier. He thought about times the U.S. Army served to protect democracy and freedoms historically. He imagined helping people who were under invasion, helping save people from being displaced from their homes.
LEADING BY EXAMPLE
Seeing firsthand the challenges the Army presented and how it ultimately provided for their family, the twins understood better than most what they were getting into.
Amiri’s grandmother, Jacqueline Legrear, once reminded him how his life had always been supported by the hard work that his family members had put into the Army.
“Your life has always been paid out, looked over and protected by the Army,” Amiri said his grandmother told him.
She showed photos of the twins wearing Army clothes and Army gear when they were children.
His grandmother also reminded him of his mother’s sacrifice.
“Looking back, the Army has serviced my life in a bunch of ways that I didn’t even realize,” Amiri said.
Lakeshia’s service began in 2001 after graduating from high school in Greenville, North Carolina. She shipped for basic training to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, the same place her father had been stationed.
For Advanced Individual Training as an administrative specialist, she shipped to Fort Jackson, South Carolina just weeks prior to 9/11.
She reported to her first duty station here at Fort Gregg-Adams, then Fort Lee, Nov. 7, 2001. She soon met the twins’ father, Jeremy Stokes, who had also previously served in the Army as a petroleum specialist.
It wouldn’t be many months later, though, that she would deploy with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 240th Quartermaster Battalion in 2003 to Iraq.
“I was the PFCIC (Private First Class In Charge),” Lakeshia said. “I knew everybody’s job. Anybody could be out, and S1 would not miss a beat.”
It was at Fort Gregg-Adams after deployment where the boys were conceived and where Lakeshia learned she was pregnant.
“She got with my dad, and they made me and Cory on this base,” Amiri said. “It’s funny how we came back here after almost twenty years; that’s crazy.”
They were born in Huntsville, Alabama, Sept. 20, 2004.
The boys credit their mom with always working no matter what stress she might be enduring and for not bringing that stress home.
“My goal was for nothing to miss a beat with them at home,” Lakeshia said. “You have to be present, have to provide whatever the kids need. That’s all I wanted; they don’t have to know all what’s going on at work.”
The twins credit her for raising them largely by herself for a long time, though she eventually met their stepdad, Alex Young, who also served in the Army for 13 years as a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear specialist.
The twins also credit their stepdad for positively influencing them and for being there for them and their mom.
“My stepdad, he’s really big on jobs for the future,” Jacquori said. “If you decide to leave the military, you want your job skills to apply to the civilian world.”
This is partly why the twins chose water purification, but they also watched their mom apply the same principle.
For the boys, their mom is an example of resilience and finishing a job, they said. They beam with pride when pointing toward her college credentials: associate and bachelor’s degrees in business administration, as well as a master’s degree in human resource management.
Lakeshia works at Marbury High School, the same place her sons graduated from and played soccer, football and basketball.
The boys said that despite some male family members doubting that their mom could make it as a Soldier, she secured retirement benefits and pay that provided a living for them.
“She always had us in sports that we wanted to play, supported hobbies we wanted to pursue,” Amiri said.
Amiri said that Jacquori wanted to play guitar, so their mom got some guitars for him.
“We broke them, jumped on them and stuff like that,” Amiri said.
Despite whatever the boys may have put her through, she never gave up on them.
“I could see the selflessness in her,” Jacquori said.
Lakeshia even did a tandem jump with the Golden Knights, the U.S. Army Parachute Team on Sept. 20, the twins’ 19th birthday.
She said she did it for her boys.
“Nineteen years ago, they brought so much excitement into my life,” she said. “I just wanted to show how much I appreciate it.”
BE ALL YOU CAN BE
As the family prepared to send Jacquori off to basic training, the expectation was that the twins would train separately, given that they enlisted two months apart.
However, fate would have it that they shipped together after Military Entrance Processing Station personnel asked Amiri if he wanted to go to basic with his brother.
As well, Amiri had chosen the same Military Occupational Specialty as Jacquori, so they would attend AIT together too.
“I wanted to do the same thing, so that we could cross-train each other,” Amiri said. “I said, okay, that’s cool. Water Treatment, I like it.”
The twins attended basic training at Fort Moore, Georgia, June 13 - Aug. 24, mostly alongside infantry recruits, because Fort Jackson, where support jobs like water treatment specialists normally train, was full, the twins said.
The twins said that the tactical and character-building training their drill sergeants led at basic training was top-notch.
At first they were in the same platoon, even bunk buddies, but the drill sergeants split them up to challenge them and help them develop individually.
The transformation from civilian to Soldier was rapid.
“When I got to Basic, stuff got popping, and we started hitting the ground running with the infantry,” Amiri said. “They got us in the mud. I started shining outside because I’m physically fit. I started calling out leadership things.”
Drill sergeants made Amiri the first platoon guide of the group for the first few weeks. He found himself quickly in a team-building role. He would help coordinate plans and help facilitate teamwork.
“This was the hardest time for me because they were always in my ear like, ‘Hey, if you mess up you’re going to get fired, don’t mess up, don’t mess up,” Amiri said. “They pile so much on you; it’s so much to take on your shoulders, and I felt like I really couldn’t handle it. The only thing that I could do was to keep pushing for my battle buddies.”
While his platoon was a mess early on with disorder and arguments, Amiri said at the beginning of the third week his group started clicking.
“We started hanging with each other and sorting out the inner-turmoil,” Amiri said. “We were connecting with each other and opening up. I felt my potential to be a leader was rising up very fast.”
Jacquori said the most difficult thing about basic training for him was learning how to shoot the M4 rifle since he had no experience with shooting a weapon.
“All I shot was basketball,” Jacquori said. “The drill sergeants were right beside me, though, coaching me up every step of the way. That’s what drill sergeants are going to instill in you, the motivation, the courage, the determination.”
MUTUAL TRUST AND RESPECT
Lakeshia said that her twins leaving home really didn’t hit her until she saw them walking across the field at the Fort Moore graduation, where she wore a T-shirt that read ‘Double Time’ and ‘PFC Legrear x2.’
“I was like ‘wow, I’ve got some Soldiers now,’” Lakeshia said. “Because when you actually see them in the uniform, it’s different.”
Indeed, the twins had matured, and now they headed to the Petroleum and Water Department, U.S. Army Quartermaster School with an understanding that drill sergeants and instructors set conditions purposely to prepare them for real-world operations.
At Fort Gregg-Adams, the twins, now members of Romeo Company, 262nd Quartermaster Battalion, rave about the mentorship their drill sergeants and school instructors have provided.
“Here at Gregg-Adams, I’ve experienced nothing but the best leadership,” Jacquori said.
One impressive, motivational instructor for the twins has been Staff Sgt. Joshua Gulapa.
“He brought the most energy I’ve ever seen out of an instructor,” Amiri said. “It didn’t make sense how much energy he had in the morning. He would come in like, ‘Yo, what’s up. Wake up. Wake up. Another day for P.T., another day to be great, another day to get better.’”
When Gulapa notices that students are low on energy or not paying full attention, he creates impromptu learning games to engage them, the twins said.
“I never experienced this in high school,” Amiri said. “This is like a delicacy just to have people like this around you. It makes you more comfortable, more prideful and energetic, all and out more motivated.”
Another accomplished instructor that the twins and other students have gravitated toward is Terry Wade.
“Mr. Wade says, ‘if a duck can pull a truck, hook him up,’ and he’s showing us that we have the ability,” Amiri said. “We just have to believe in ourselves.”
The twins trust in Wade and show respect, and it goes both ways, as he challenges them, encourages them and boosts their confidence levels.
“Mr. Wade, he’s always heavy on his stuff,” Amiri said. “He knows the stuff he’s talking about. He’s teaching us this and that. He says, ‘battle buddies from birth, we have to keep pushing each other,’ and we do.”
The twins call back home regularly, updating their mom and grandfather on the mentorship and training they’re experiencing.
“They talk to us about [the instructors] every time they call,” Harold Sr. said. “That’s when I know they’re getting taken care of. That puts you at ease to see that relationship. That’s good stuff.”
Lakeshia said that she has embraced the mentorship her sons are getting.
“That’s all I wanted and all I prayed for was for them to have those leaders in place who would spark something more in them because there is a lot in them,” Lakeshia said. “They just don’t even know yet.”
ARMY OF TOMORROW
Should the twins stay focused on their water purification objectives the way their mom, grandfather and instructors want, they are set to graduate this Military Family Appreciation Month as U.S. Army Water Dogs.
It remains unknown where their first duty station will be.
They expect to be separated, but first they will have a couple weeks back home.
“I hope they come back for hometown recruiting because they’ll be able to help out big time since they were popular at school,” Harold Sr. said.
Harold Sr. sees an opportunity for the twins to earn an Army Achievement Medal before reporting to their first duty station by getting two people to join.
He added the future is bright for the twins because they are both natural leaders and humble at the same time.
“They listen,” Harold Sr. said. “That’s one of their best traits. They’re open to mentorship because of the way they were raised from the time they were little.”
The family legacy might well continue, too, because Lakeshia has noticed the twins’ 9-year-old brother, Za’mir Young, displaying Army attributes.
He’s apparently found inspiration in his brothers’ service, she said.
“He’s around here calling out cadences,” Lakeshia said. “Standing at attention at the bus stop, he will march to the school bus door when it opens.”
And the Army goes rolling along.
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