Brothers go from defending soccer net to defending their nation
Monday, January 2, 2006

WOODBURY -- In 2002, Chris and Patrick Kiely defended their net to help Nonnewaug High School clinch a soccer state championship.

Now, the brothers will help defend their nation.

Chris, 20, a member of the Marine Corps reserves, will leave for Al Anbar Province, Iraq, on Tuesday. Patrick, a 19-year-old Connecticut National Guardsman, will deploy for Afghanistan on Wednesday.

"We were brought up to always feel that we should contribute," said Chris, a sophomore criminal justice major at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain. "Playing defense in soccer, we were taught to be team players and make sure the other team doesn't score. That has carried over to everything we do."

Though they said they were never pushed into military life, the brothers said they felt compelled to follow in their father's footsteps. Joseph Kiely did intelligence work in the Marine Corps from 1966 to 1969. He then served in the Connecticut National Guard for 25 years before retiring as a major.

The news that their youngest son was set to deploy was hard enough for Joseph and his wife Beth to swallow. But it was even tougher when they were told their only two children would be leaving one day apart.

"If I could split myself in half and go for them I would do it in a heartbeat," said Joseph, who has recently re-enlisted into the National Guard. "But I can't, and I just thank God we have kids like this who will keep us being able to do what we do today.

"People have said it's not fair for both of them to go. But they wouldn't have it any other way."

Both parents are concerned for their sons, and their expressions show their grief. But their faces light up when they talk about how proud they are of Chris and Patrick.

"Most parents have to wait until their kids are 25 to 30 to see what type of people their kids are," Joseph said. "But we know what great young men we have at 19 and 20."

He bragged Sunday about how Patrick, a freshman criminal justice major and soccer player at Post University in Waterbury, received a medal for his service in helping Hurricane Katrina victims in Mississippi three months ago. It was something the modest 19-year-old didn't mention once in his conversations with a reporter.

"I take pride in helping others," Patrick said. "It was something that was instilled in us."

The brothers said their only motivation is to help bring peace.

"Other Marines I've talked to said you'll realize your first week there that you are really helping," Chris said. "They say you can walk around and see the change. I want to look back and say that I did something I'm proud of."

As a tribute to one another, Chris and Patrick recently got the same tattoo on their right shoulder blades. Underneath a black Celtic symbol is the Irish word "Dearthair" -- brother.

Chris said, "It reminds us that we're fighting together."