Brothers pack for Iraq

Brothers Maj. Chris Reese, Public Affairs Officer, and Sgt. Michael Cutburth, a mechanic with the 41st IBCT, are deploying to Iraq together. They will return May 2010.<BR><I>Contributed by Oregon Military Department</I>

Larry Cutburth won't see his two sons this Father's Day. But he'll guarantee this much:

"They'll call - I'll bet you on that,"?the Hermiston resident said. "They don't miss my birthday; they don't miss Father's Day" or any other special occasions, he added.

Christopher Reese and Michael Cutburth, half-brothers raised in Hermiston, are spending this Father's Day at Fort Stewart, Georgia. That's where the two Oregon Army National Guard soldiers are training, set to deploy together to Iraq later this summer.

Both have served overseas before, including Michael in Iraq. But they weren't originally supposed to serve together this time around.

Then, word of Christopher's impending deployment came.

"Michael said, 'My brother is not going over there by himself,"?Larry said. "So he transferred over there in the same unit, so he could go with him."

Both Larry and his wife Kathy described two brothers who share a strong commitment to each other, and a strong commitment to their duties as soldiers.

"They kind of made a pact to each other that if one of them went, then the other one went,"?said Kathy, who works as a nurse at Good Shepherd Medical Center.

The two will represent Oregon's 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team - a group of nearly 2,700 soldiers, making it the largest Oregon deployment since World War II.

And though their destination is the same, their missions are not. Christopher will take on duty as a public affairs officer for the brigade, having served as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot before. Michael will be assigned as a mechanic.

Half a world away, their parents will send letters, awaiting any communication possible from the two brothers. That's a lot easier than it used to be, Kathy said, noting the growth of e-mail and phone access in addition to more traditional written correspondence.

But those advances have their drawbacks elsewhere, she said. During previous deployments, near-constant TV news coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - most of it bad news, she said - made it difficult back home.

But that doesn't mean Larry won't keep track of it, he said, particularly with Christopher taking on his new role.

"I worry about them,"?Larry said, "but they're my life. If I?didn't have them, I wouldn't have nothing."

When Michael returns to Iraq, he'll return to the place where he nearly lost his life before. During his first tour, an improvised explosive device, or IED, tore into the side of Michael's truck - the side he was sitting in.

Pieces of shrapnel lodged into Michael's body. He immediately went to surgery. According to the Oregon Military Department, he spoke with Christopher by phone shortly after the incident.

"I asked him if he was coming home,"?the older Christopher told the military department recently. "Not knowing what he would say, he answered with the most beautiful words a proud soldier, brother, and mentor could ever hear. Michael said, 'Chris, I have a squad to lead and there is no way I?will come back home, while my boys are still here fighting. I am staying until we are done.'"

Michael stayed until the end of his tour. Those events earned him a Purple Heart, Kathy said.

For all the accomplishments of Christopher and Michael, Larry added on the eve of Father's Day that he's just as proud of his daughter, Tammy Reese.

The two brothers are slated for a 10-month tour of duty in Iraq this time around. But, as Kathy noted, "things can change at the drop of a hat."

Christopher and Michael both leave behind wives and families of their own. Christopher has two sons, and Michael is the father of two sons, a daughter and two step-daughters.

"I think they figure if they do this, then their sons won't have to do this,"?Kathy said. "We hope."

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