I have two brothers, Paul Nicholas and Jeremy Michael Krist. Paul is thirteen months younger than me and naturally hubris, but only in the best way. He is an economic genius with an almost complete lack of common sense. He is bigger than me, but can never totally beat me. He is a muscle-bound lovable rock that thinks he is broke and headed for hard times if there is less than one grand in his bank account. Jeremy, on the other hand, the youngest, seems to always have money for a moment and the next want to bum a smoke because he ‘didn’t get paid yet’. Jay (as we have called him since childhood) shares my creativity, but with music. He creates beats and backgrounds, not professionally, but definitely skillfully. He incessantly raps his knuckles on every surface and taps his eating utensils creating his own rhythmic theme song wherever he goes. He is strong-willed to the point of incorrigibility. He will sneak up and surprise attack, pin my arms and sit on my chest, pinching my face and guilt tripping me until I concede or agree with him out of annoyance or laughter. Jay always knows how to get what he wants.
We three brothers fight each other, a lot. We fight tooth and nail, armed to the teeth, over pretty much anything. The slightest cough in the wrong direction or the crumb of uneaten food, falling silently to the ground in slow motion, sparks up a cacophony of choice words, followed by a barrage of thrown household items and an accompanying NFL-worthy tackle. Of course, it always started throwing pillows or punches, but as we grew, so did our methods of retaliation; Seldom did a fight not escalate to us arming ourselves with sticks, bb guns, the occasional bottle, and once the five pound Yankee Candle my mother conveniently shelved on the staircase behind and above the couch. I can still feel the knot in my scalp from the miniature pool stick snapped over my head for not wanting to fork over the bag of Lays that Jay apparently had wanted so badly. I can still hear the roar of the crowd, paralleled only by the roar of the principal, who was inexplicably livid at Paul and I brawling in the high school auditorium, with half of the school looking on. Somehow in some weird twisted way, our fighting spirits have always brought us closer. Pins and nails hold us together, as the heat from our rage and sweat from our battered bodies would surely melt the glue that holds any normal siblings together. Every physical blow we give and receive strikes twice as hard on those nails and pins, strengthening our bonds, forcing us together. Through it all, the amount of love and admiration we have for each other always prevails. We three brothers are our own most violent loyal gang, and nothing anyone can do will ever take that away from us.
No matter the amount of possible trouble or danger involved, we three brothers always stand up for each other. When Jay was being bullied in his first few months of junior high, we did not idly stand by and let him ‘tough it out’, as some would. No, Paul and I walked to the school and sat on the bus waiting for him, to protect him. Our brother may have not necessarily needed us, but we were there to back him up. Sure enough we were escorted off the property, void of battle scars or security reports, but I would like to believe that in those moments Jay felt a sense of pride in us and knew he would always be backed. We three are always braving the odds, danger, and authority to stick up for each other. But I have finally realized the steady increase in risk as we grow older; possible trouble turned to definite trouble and the risk boosted exponentially. But we three brothers have got each other’s backs.
Failure to adapt: the code given to those who cannot or will not conform to the specified guidelines in Marine Corps Boot Camp that is only spoken in hushed tones amongst the recruits as a rumor. But it is real. Fighting, disrespect, lack of discipline, and physical shortcomings are just a few things covered underneath this umbrella of failure. When Paul and I cut our teeth at MCRD Parris Island, we had a reputation for simultaneously flying off the handle. Chalk it up to rage issues, sticking up for each other, or maybe even Napoleon Syndrome, but what started as an encouraged 3rd Bn. Kilo Co. ‘killer’ spirit, escalated into a failure-to-adapt-worthy problem. Platoon 3101 was shacked up in the third deck of Follow Series barracks. The building was as old as the depot, but the inside was clean enough to eat off the shining linoleum floors. Every inch of third deck was always as scraped and scrubbed clean as were the seventy plus ‘disgusting recruits’ living in it.
It was the middle of October 2008, right after our platoons Final Drill (the graded portion of final evaluation based on firearms handling and drill movements). We recruits were milling about the squad bay, in our orderly professional recruit manner, some of us pressing our green camouflage utilities, others sitting on our black footlockers, cleaning our boots or starching our covers. Some of the recruits were just pretending to be cleaning, walking around conversing with each other, being sure to look busy when our clinically insane Drill Instructor, Drill Instructor Sergeant Schwann was roaming the squad bay, looking for a throat to punch or a wrong-doing recruit to slay. One of such fake cleaning recruits was recruit Reed. Reed was a 6 foot D.C. native with a quick mouth, a quicker temper and python arms attached to 300 pounds of muscle to back it all up. Reed used to boast his presence amongst us as his alternative choice to jail. Reed was walking around faking it with a broom when he wandered by me and Paul. By this time in our training our reputation normally preceded us elsewhere, but those in our own platoon knew us best. “…maaan y’all Krist brothers are fuckin’ crazy, but sometimes I just wanna bash ya heads togetha…”, Reed said to us as he stood there clutching the broom he was pretending to use. This could have been Reeds messed up kind of friendly conversation starter, but I guess we will never know.
Paul and I, with our Macho take-anyone-on attitudes, saw this as Reed calling us out. We stood up, armed with tongues to be reckoned with, and ignited a verbal banter that reached a crescendo of expletive-laced insults exchanged between the three of us. Sgt. Schwann, whom we all affectionately called ‘Sir’, was enroute, like a released hellhound, barreling towards souls that needed collecting. Paul and I had already felt the wrath of Sgt. Schwann; I had been repeatedly clotheslined, and Paul had been physically and mentally annihilated in a dark 10x3 foot closet we stored gear in. With Sgt. Schwann closing in and words flying, Reed grabbed us. One of us under each arm, facing each other in a vice-like headlock, Paul and I instantly and instinctively knew what to do. We looked at each other through tightened eyes, smothered by Reeds biceps, as I counted down; “3…2…1.” We both stood up straight, and in one fluid motion leg swept all 300 lbs. of Reed to the floor. With Paul’s rear naked choke and my knee in his chest, Reed, our brother in arms, was pinned and found himself as yet another victim of the “Krist brothers”. Sgt. Schwann ripped us off, still yelling about how disgusting we were. We were physically tortured in the coming hours, as well as informed of our failure to adapt affecting our professionalism.
In light of our possible dismissal, Paul and I graduated on November 11, 2008 and are better for it. Looking back at the risks we took to protect and defend each other, every outcome could have played out a lot worse. But that never stopped us and it never will; because we may be at each other’s throats but we’ve got each other’s backs; we will always have each other; we are loyal till death. One thing that will always be is we three, Brothers we will always be.
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