DJIBOUTI, Africa --
For Marine Lance Cpl. Andrew C. Revei, the hardships of being an infantryman training in austere environments while deployed don’t compare to the hardships his younger brother, and best friend, are enduring stateside.
It’s not the sharp rocks jabbing his back while sleeping outside after baking in the desert sun that keep him up at night. Worrying about his younger brother’s fight with cancer does.
While Andrew, 24, serves his country overseas, currently deployed with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, his brother Abraham, 22, is battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Disease, back stateside in Baltimore, Md.
“The Marine Corps teaches you to adapt and overcome and how to deal with different hardships, but nothing can prepare you for something like this,” said Lance Cpl. Revei, a machine gun team leader for Weapons Platoon, Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment.
For as long as they can remember Andrew and Abraham have been attached at the hip. Being the only two children of divorced parents, they always relied on one another for support, and never lost contact, no matter what the other was doing, or how far apart they were.
“Throughout my time in the Marine Corps I have always made sure to call him on my way home from work every day. Even when I was in Iraq, I found every opportunity available to call my little brother,” said Andrew. “I just think about him all the time.”
Andrew explained that they were the kind of brothers that planned to have their families live on the same street when they got older so they could always be together.
Abraham was proud that Andrew was in the Marines and supported him when he got the call to deploy again with the 24th MEU.
Before shipping out Andrew used all of his pre-deployment leave to go to Baltimore and spend New Year’s with his brother. It was during this off-time that they noticed a baseball-sized growth on Abraham’s neck.
Abraham promised to go see a doctor about it the Monday following Andrew’s departure. Not knowing the severity or even what exactly the growth on his brother’s neck was, Andrew set sail aboard USS Mesa Verde to head to Haiti to assist with earthquake relief efforts as the first stop on a his 7-month deployment.
After a few days at sea, there was no news of his brother’s condition. Andrew found himself standing post in Haiti when the earth shattering news was delivered.
“I completely lost it. There I was trying to help the people in Haiti who needed food, water and jobs and I couldn’t help them enough. Then I found out that the only brother I have and the person I hold most dear has stage four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Disease and there was nothing I could do,” recalled Andrew. “I felt completely helpless.”
Andrew explained that his family has no history of cancer - his brother just woke up one day with it.
All he could think about was getting to his brother. He was miles away, in a foreign country, and all he could do was turn to his Marine brothers for support.
Having been with the same group of Marines for months, even years with some, they saw his pain.
“I was on ship when the American Red Cross Message came through,” explained Gunnery Sgt. Barry J. St. Onge, Andrew’s platoon sergeant. “I contacted the company commander on shore who immediately gave Lance Cpl. Revei a phone to call home to his brother.”
All Andrew could do over the phone was give words of encouragement to Abraham. Once back on ship, Andrew called his brother on a daily basis to receive updates and just have a conversation.
“My brother knows I have a job to do. He wishes I could be there, but he understands and respects the situation that I’m in,” said Andrew. “When you can’t be there for your family, all you can do is pray.”
Abraham underwent several stages of chemotherapy and tests, but the prognosis was undetermined.
A few days after being on ship, Andrew decided to shave his head in support of his brother going through chemotherapy. His fellow Marines followed his lead in a show of support.
Within a couple of weeks most of Bravo Company had shaved their heads. Even some of the Sailors aboard the ship shaved their heads as the brother's story spread.
“As a machine gun section, we are all very tightly knit. We all fight for each other and we are all contributing in any way possible, whether it’s talking him through this or it’s just being there for him, he’s our brother and we care for him,” said Cpl. Christopher P. Schroth, Andrew’s section leader.
With Andrew not due home until sometime later this summer he will need this support from his extended Marine Corps family, just as he supports his brother half a world away.
“Everyone in my company has done everything possible to show support and compassion. That is what makes the Marine Corps different; you could be in a valley full of nothing but rocks and every Marine will still have your back,” said Andrew. “I even had a Marine come up to me and say, ‘you need money, my bank account is yours.’ I didn’t take it but that’s just how tight we are.”
Over the next few weeks, Abraham will endure multiple blood tests and chemotherapy to ensure the cancer doesn’t spread. There is no current prediction on how Abraham will recover.
If Abraham needs a bone marrow transplant, Andrew said he will be right there in the bed next to him “raising hell, like any true brother would.”
In the mean time, Andrew and his platoon are working on putting a collage of pictures together of their shaved heads to show that they are all fighting for him.
“We all wanted to take a picture so that when he goes into chemo he can have me and my Marines right there with him,” said Andrew. “My Marines and I could defeat the world together; hopefully when my brother has us with him he can defeat the cancer.”