View Full Version : Brothers in arms

11-27-05, 06:54 AM
Brothers in arms
A year ago, Jared Hubbard was killed in Iraq. This week, his brothers honor his memory by becoming infantrymen in a military still at war.
By Doug Hoagland / The Fresno Bee
(Updated Sunday, November 27, 2005, 4:15 AM)

On a drizzly day in November 2004, a week after a roadside bomb exploded in the Iraqi darkness, Jason and Nathan Hubbard saw their brother and his boyhood friend, both Marines, buried side by side in Clovis.

Guns fired in salute at the funeral for Jared Hubbard and Jeremiah Baro. A bagpiper played "Amazing Grace" and white doves, set free, flew into the cloudy sky.

Soon afterward, Jason and Nathan talked of enlisting in the military, and nine months later, they volunteered for the Army.

They are bound by love and memories and a buddy program that allows them to serve together. On Friday, the two Clovis brothers will graduate from basic training and become infantrymen in a military still at war.

Their parents and Jason's wife plan to attend the graduation, trying not to think of what might come next.

Jason, 31, and Nathan, 19, believe it was their duty to enlist. If they are sent to fight in Iraq, they will accept that as their duty, too. They could be sent into combat even though their brother died on the battlefield. But Jason and Nathan say they don't worry about dying in a war that recently claimed its 2,000th American casualty.

"People are going to be hurt, and people are going to be killed," Jason says. "That is a reality you have to accept but not dwell on."

Their brother, Lance Cpl. Jared Patrick Hubbard, died on Nov. 4, 2004, less than a week after he turned 22. He was a sniper, and he was buried on Veterans Day.

Jason was 8 when Jared was born, and he remembers the new baby coming home from the hospital. "I remember him growing older and playing football with him on the front lawn," Jason says. "I remember taking him to baseball games and then later watching him become a very, very good athlete in wrestling and football. Out of the three brothers, I think he had the most charisma."

Jason graduated from Clovis High School and went into law enforcement, joining the Fresno County Sheriff's Department in 2001. He backpacks and climbs rocks. Once he and his wife, Linnea, sold their house in four hours and then moved into an apartment so she could quit a job she didn't like and return to college.

"It's those kind of things that Jason and I do that make us happy and make us strong," Linnea Hubbard says. "We don't want to miss experiences because we second-guessed ourselves."

Jason has not second-guessed his decision to enlist, and the decision wasn't made on a whim. He mulled it over for months, always thinking of Jared.

"It's not just our family that lost something," Jason says. "Our entire country lost something in him."

Nathan remembers other things when he thinks about Jared. As little boys, they'd be crawling on their knees like they were cows, with big brother, Jason, playing cowboy. He'd twirl a rope, trying to lasso them. When they got older, Jason and Nathan would hunt and fish, with Jared joining in when he could. Jared was busy with sports in high school.

"There's thousands and millions of memories that I have of my brother and … they pass through my mind all the time," Nathan says.

Nathan went to Buchanan High School in Clovis, but it wasn't the easiest time for him. He was bright but didn't always do his work. He couldn't play sports because his grades weren't good enough. Nathan thought about the military and talked to Jared after he joined the Marines. At some point, Nathan talked to a recruiter, too. But any decision about enlisting was left to the future.

Nathan graduated but didn't feel ready for college, so he went to work at a ski resort and on a ranch. He and his friends would hang out, shoot pool at his parents' house, go to the movies, play paintball.

After Jared died, Nathan thought for months about enlisting and today has no regrets.

"Me and my family, we are moving forward," he says. "We are getting on with our lives. My brother — my parents' son — will always be in our hearts, and we'll always remember him and we'll always think of him and all that, but we've got to move on, and that's what we are doing."

Jason says he doesn't believe he would have joined the Army if Jared hadn't been killed. Nathan's not sure what he would have done without Jason at his side. And their mother believes that Jason enlisted, in part, to help protect Nathan after not being there to help Jared.

Service is part of the Hubbard family history. The boys' grandfather served in World War II and was awarded a Purple Heart. Jeff Hubbard, the boys' father, was a Clovis cop for nearly 30 years. Wearing a uniform seemed "a real honorable thing," Nathan says.

Jared Hubbard put on a uniform when he enlisted in the Marine Corps in December 2001 after his graduation from Buchanan High. He didn't go to the service with a brother, but he did go with Baro, his friend since middle school.

Jared enrolled at Fresno City College after high school, but it wasn't quite what he wanted. "He was wanting a little bit more excitement," says the boys' mother, Peggy Hubbard. "Jeremiah started talking to him about the Marines and how they could go in together, the buddy system. Jared said, 'You know, college isn't what I want right now, and that sounds like that would be a good thing.'"

The two Marines went to Iraq in March 2003, came home for a year and returned to Iraq in September 2004.

On Oct. 26, 2004, Jared wrote a letter home to a former teacher. He already was talking about his military service in the past tense. "It was a good experience for me," he wrote. "I served my country, got money for college, I'm a combat vet, but I'm off to college next. I think I'm going to start out at Fresno State because of family, connections and friends."

Of the situation in Iraq, he wrote: "Okay, the war. This country has to help itself before anything can happen. As long as the Iraqis stop the economy and kill its leaders there really isn't much the United States can do but stay here longer and kill more Iraqis. The people here are from a whole other world. They kill people for starting a relationship before marriage. They can do any act to someone of a different religion than their own.

"The tribes fight each other. We fight them. They fight us. They fight insurgents (kinda). We fight insurgents. It's a very difficult situation. I think we have committed to Iraq so we have to finish the job. How long that takes is up to its people."

He signed the letter, "Your adorable student, Jared Hubbard."

He and Baro were part of an eight-man platoon of snipers on a mission Nov. 4, 2004. They were on foot in Ramadi, west of Baghdad. It was dark. A bomb exploded. Hubbard and Baro took the brunt of the blast.

A week later, strangers lined the streets of Fresno and Clovis and put their hands over their hearts as hearses passed by, bearing the bodies of the two friends from church to cemetery.

Among the rows of graves, two fresh ones were waiting.

Nathan and Jason began to talk right away about enlisting. They talked to each other and to Linnea Hubbard, Jason's 28-year-old wife. She was pregnant at the time with their son.

Jeff Hubbard knew about his sons' conversations.

Linnea Hubbard listened to Jason and was frightened, thinking her husband's grief was driving the decision. But Jason and Nathan knew they needed time to let their emotions cool. The brothers agreed to wait before doing anything.

Christmas came and went. Then New Year's. And in April, Elijah Jared Hubbard was born to Jason and Linnea. The family was happy about the baby, but their grief about Jared remained raw.

Jeff and Peggy Hubbard found some solace in the structure of their lives. They got up, went to work, came home and did it again the next day. Peggy, 53, is a floor manager at Vons. Jeff, 54, is now retired from the Clovis police force. The couple also have a daughter, 29-year-old Heidi, who lives in San Diego.

Jeff Hubbard now works as a code enforcement officer for Clovis. It's only part-time and he explains wistfully: "So I have a lot of time to fill. Boy, it's been empty time."

Jeff and Peggy Hubbard weep for their dead son. "Still cry lots," Jeff Hubbard says. When someone asked him whether he thinks of Jared every day, Hubbard just laughed.

Peggy Hubbard describes their lives with one word: Shattered.

She did not know that Jason was thinking of enlisting, but she was aware that Nathan had talked of doing it in high school and was still mulling it over. "I was hoping it would fade away," she says.

But the issue did not fade away.

Jason was thinking about soldiers and Marines finishing one tour of duty in Iraq, coming home and then being sent back into harm's way. Jared was on his second deployment to Iraq when he was killed.

"We felt that if more people did their part and joined and served their country that maybe somebody wouldn't have to go a third time," Jason says.

He wasn't angry that Jared had to go a second time — "people have to do that, and they know that when they sign up" —- but his brother's death made the issue very real.

Nathan was thinking, too. Going into the military wasn't necessarily about honoring Jared but more about honoring the country, "and sticking to what we thought was right," he says.

By June, Jason and Nathan were again talking seriously of enlisting.

Jason and Nathan brought up the subject one evening at dinner with their parents.

Both brothers already had considered how enlisting would hurt their mother and father. Jason says, however, "It still comes back to doing what we believe is right, and sometimes doing what's right is hard, but that is no excuse not to do it."

Nathan adds: "I know my family is a very strong family and we could get through anything together."

Their mother, however, was horrified. "All I heard was Iraq. All I envisioned was Iraq and two more sons," Peggy Hubbard says. "But I tried to stay strong and to listen to them, listen to their view and hold my emotions back because I knew this was very, very hard for them to even bring up to me."

Neither Peggy nor Jeff Hubbard ever told their sons not to enlist. She thought of begging them not to. And she believed they would have given in. But it didn't seem right. Going into the Army was too important to them.

"I just supported them," she says, though she would cry when her sons weren't around.

Jeff Hubbard took a pragmatic view. If he strongly opposed them going, they might resent him no matter what they decided. "I guess we believe in the freedoms that we talk about in our country," he says. "And so they've got to be extended to the people that you love and care most about."

But Jeff Hubbard wanted his sons to think thoroughly of what they were about to do. So he asked a lot of questions. He played the role of the contrarian, something that comes naturally, he says with a half-smile.

With Jason, the husband and father, Jeff Hubbard asked about the responsibility and security a man owes his family. To join the Army, Jason was leaving a job that paid more than $50,000 a year.

With Nathan, the teenager trying to find a path in life, Jeff Hubbard asked about his history with authority figures. Nathan didn't like them in high school, but he'd have plenty of them in the Army. Could he handle this?

There were other questions. Did Nathan believe people expected him to join because of Jared? And what if Nathan failed in the military? What would happen then?

Jeff Hubbard says his sons gave him clear-headed answers. Jason said he'd done the math; his family's financial security would not be jeopardized. As to the emotional toll of him being away, Jason said he and his wife have a strong relationship and she has good support from her family. She comes from a family of 11 children.

Nathan said he could follow Army orders because he was choosing the Army. He also said it was better to try the military and fail — though he had no intention of failing — than never to try and nurse his frustrations at home.

Jeff and Peggy Hubbard never told their sons that they as parents had given enough when Jared died.

"There's people in the world that have given a lot more. … The people that are giving are our kids," Jeff Hubbard says. "They are making the sacrifice. They are doing the service. And we are dealing with the grief."

Peggy Hubbard adds: "It has been a very difficult year. But ... I cannot have Jason and Nathan stop their lives. I want them to do what they feel is important ... and that's what is important to me."

Linnea Hubbard says her husband explained that he needed to feel close to Jared and to experience what Jared experienced in the last years of his life: "It's not a simple thing. It's very complex. … I think they do feel closer to Jared in doing this."

Linnea loved Jared, too, but her husband's loss is more profound, she says: "It's a brotherly bond I would never get in the way of."

So she never asked Jason not to go.

He says he didn't enlist for political reasons. Jason won't say whether he supports the American presence in Iraq but explains that as a deputy sheriff, it was his job to enforce the laws, not decide whether he agreed with all of them:

"Our enlistment isn't because we agree or disagree with what is going on over there. Our enlistment is because our country is at war. There are young men being sent to fight this war, and we feel that we should be part of that. … I'm part of this country, and I'm part of this democracy and that presidency, too, and when the call is made, I'm there to answer it."

Jason and Nathan picked the Army because they felt it gave them the best options together. Jason could enlist for active service because 35 is the cut- off age.

The brothers went in under a buddy program that guarantees them basic training in the same place (they were sent to Fort Benning, Ga.) and the same duty station (they're going to Hawaii, home of the 25th Infantry Division).

They wanted to be in the same place because they are close despite the age difference. Says Jason: "Why not join together and try to stay together no matter what journey lies in front of us?"

The Hubbards left for basic training on Aug. 16, the first step in three-year enlistments. They chose to train for the infantry, and if they see combat, they're likely to be on the ground, as Jared was.

"We come from a very competitive family," Jason says. "We come from a family that has pride in itself. ... I think I can say this for all three of the brothers in my family — when a war occurs and people have to go fight, we are the ones that want to be in the trenches with the people that are fighting."

Basic training has tested them physically and mentally, but being away from home has been the hardest thing. Jason left a 3-month-old son; he's now 7 months. They're also missing all the first anniversaries since Jared's death. He would have been 23 on Oct. 29, and at his grave there is a bouquet of flowers with a card: "Happy Birthday. 23. Miss you mom."

Less than a week later, on Nov. 4, it was one year since Jared died.

His brothers say it helps that they have each other to talk to; they are not only in the same platoon, but are bunk mates.

Peggy Hubbard imagines that her sons whisper to each other at night, but Nathan says he's ready to sleep when he hits the bunk.

Jeff and Peggy Hubbard are glad their sons are together, and they've stayed in touch through letters and phone calls. Linnea Hubbard waits eagerly for Sundays and the possibility she'll hear her husband's voice.

"He can call if he has privileges," she says. "Elijah and I stay in our jammies and wait by the phone."

Linnea Hubbard and her son plan to fly with Jeff and Peggy Hubbard to Georgia for basic training graduation Friday. Jason and Nathan then will return to Clovis briefly. The Army wants them to do two weeks of recruiting in the Fresno-Clovis area, and they also will get two weeks of leave, according to their family.

Then they report to Hawaii. Deployment to Iraq is a possibility, Jason says. Or Afghanistan, Nathan adds. No one knows when that could happen.

There is no talk of revenge. Some people back home have asked the Hubbard family if avenging Jared's death is what motivates Jason and Nathan.

"Our main goal in enlistment is not to revenge the death of my brother, but to carry on in his footsteps until this war is finished," Jason says. "Our ultimate goal is to make the world a better place for Americans, for Iraqis and anyone else affected by terrorists."

Jason's and Nathan's family can't even think about the possibility they'll be sent to Iraq.

"I haven't dealt with that yet," says Linnea Hubbard. "With the three-year enlistment, at some point they will be deployed. I'm hoping it won't be in the next six months. I'm hoping we can have a little bit of time."

Peggy Hubbard thinks only about basic training graduation and how good it will be to see her sons and hug them. "It may be that they go to Hawaii and they never see Iraq," she says. "I have told myself that I'm not going to go there until that actually happens."

Jeff Hubbard adds: "You hope for the best and deal with the worst or whatever comes. You just do it. … To all folks like us, coping is just something you just have to do."

At Jared's grave, amid the flowers and flags and photos, there is a recent picture of Jason and Nathan in their green Army uniforms. The picture, anchored by a small gray stone, lies next to the last line of inscribed words on Jared's grave marker:

"Strength and Honor."
The reporter can be reached at dhoagland@fresnobee.com or (559) 441-6354.