A Family of Patriots: Three Brothers Fighting in Afghanistan
What it’s like to be their sister back home
-Julie Ryan Evans
Anna Katheryn Callaway, 18, is the baby of her family, the only girl with three older brothers – Ryan, 25, Jared, 23, and Seth, 20, who this July 4th are all serving in the Army National Guard, deployed to Afghanistan to take part in a quickly escalating war.
The Callaways are a close family, one that puts religion and country first. Anna Katheryn is now at home with her parents in what was once lively and boisterous place. “My brothers are CRAZY!” Anna Katheryn says. “They are so much fun and they always seem to keep me laughing.”
“We have our share of sad times when we miss them terribly, but we can always remember funny stories about them,” she says.
Before her brothers left, they made sure to have some special celebrations with her, throwing her a surprise 18th birthday party since they knew they’d miss the next year with her.
“They all spoke, and it is very rare that they are serious, but they were very sweet; and each said that they loved me and were proud of me,” she remembers.
“Also, Seth was not supposed to be in the U.S. when I graduated at the end of May but he was able to surprise me at my graduation. It was the greatest graduation present ever. All the seniors involved in the marching band walked out on the field with their families. Of course, my family had to be the craziest so they carried me out on their shoulders! It was so funny!”
Her brother Ryan gave her the nickname AK-47 when she was in elementary school. Why, she’s not sure, but it stuck. “It’s just funny now since they use those guns and they think about me!”
So how does she cope when she thinks of them in Afghanistan, their lives in danger every day?
“I cope with the help of God. Seriously, if it wasn’t for my relationship with God I don’t know what the answer to that question would be. There is no other way for me to cope.”
It’s not the first time she’s had to cope with a life-threatening situation. A car accident in 2001 left Anna Katheryn in a coma for seven days, her prognosis not so good. But after rehabilitation and several surgeries, she made a full recovery.
“I know that everything that happens is God’s plan,” she says. “I learned that through my car accident, and I believe that He has a great plan for me and my family. The boys tell me not to worry about them and obviously that is impossible, but I try to always think positively and know that they will be alright. … they are Callaways!”
So what makes a Callaway? What did her parents do to turn out such patriotic young men?
“My parents are the greatest!” she says in a way that makes parents of teenagers everywhere wince in envy. “They always encouraged us to do our very best, and they were always very good role models for us. My dad is the hardest worker I know. My mom stayed at home with us when we were younger, but she has recently decided to finish college. She poured her whole life into raising us, and I think she did a pretty darn good job!”
Anna Katheryn has clearly inherited her mother’s great faith and optimistic outlook. She describes a stone her mother carries with her inscribed with the words “Pray, Count Your Blessings and Laughter”. Her brothers each took to Afghanistan a stone each imprinted with a word that represents each of them – Ryan has “Accomplish”, Jared has “Courage” and Seth has “Strength”.
Shortly after they were deployed, Anna Katheryn had an image that represents each word tattooed on her hip. “That reminds me to pray for them,” she explains. “They are my heroes! They love what they do while they are over there and they are great soldiers! I am so proud of them for what they do!”
Does she plan to follow them in their patriotic service?
“NO MA’AM!” she says with a laugh. “…and I am pretty sure they don’t want that for me. I want to be a music therapist and physical therapist.”
Anna Katheryn and her family will spend July 4th with friends from their church. “These friends always include us in celebrations during this tough year without the boy.” They will be celebrating America and celebrating the patriotism and courage of young Americans like Ryan, Jared, and Seth Callaway.