SEATTLE – Growing up, Charlie Parsons played sports, liked to travel and enjoyed learning other languages — just like his older twin brothers. When they went off to West Point, Parsons soon followed. Now, four months after Capt. Bill Parsons and Capt. Huber Parsons III deployed to Iraq, younger brother Charlie Parsons is again following their lead.
"I didn't really look at it as following in their footsteps. We just have similar interests," said Charlie Parsons, a second lieutenant from Miami, who also has a twin sister, Christine, a teacher in Jackson, Miss.
All three brothers are members of the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, a Stryker Brigade Combat Team from the Army's Fort Lewis, south of Seattle. When Charlie Parsons leaves for Baghdad on Monday, he and his brothers will join an unknown number of siblings serving together in the military.
The Army doesn't maintain a database of family members serving at the same time.
"It's not normally something that you put on your records," said Joseph Piek, a Fort Lewis spokesman, noting he recalls only two sets of brothers who have served together recently.
One of the most famous military families was the five Sullivan brothers of Waterloo, Iowa, who died during World War II when their Navy ship, the USS Juneau, was struck Nov. 13, 1942, by a Japanese torpedo.
The Navy now discourages family members from serving together on the same ship, but policy doesn't exist that prohibits them from doing so, Piek said.
"In instances where siblings or a husband and wife might serve together ... they generally take their own precautions," he said. "They make sure they aren't traveling in the same convoy or living in the same vicinity of one another."
Though the Parsons are in the same brigade, they will likely have little opportunity to see each other.
Huber Parsons III, 28, will soon take command of A Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, while Bill Parsons is slated to lead A Company, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment.
Charlie Parsons, 23, is currently assigned to brigade headquarters at Fort Lewis, but will receive a new assignment after he deploys to Baghdad for eight months.
"We're not there to see each other," he said. "The benefit isn't so we can hang out, but so we're all home together and can see each other on weekends."
Bill and Huber Parsons III, who are training Iraqi Army soldiers in Mosul, did not return e-mails seeking comment.
Their father said his older sons are looking forward to their brother's arrival.
"They're happy for him to be coming," Huber Parsons II said Friday in a telephone interview from Miami, where he works as a lawyer. "I think their view is he's ready and needed to shoulder his share of the load."
The Parsons won't be together on Charlie Parsons' last weekend in the United States, but they said their goodbyes earlier this month. And Charlie Parsons and his father got to spend time together on a cross-country drive to Fort Lewis.
Huber Parsons II believes his youngest son, like his brothers, is ready to serve, both physically and mentally.
"Our boys are very interested in service to others, in this case the nation and to something that's bigger than themselves," said the elder Huber Parsons, himself a former Army reservist.
The family has already endured several of the twins' deployments.
Huber Parsons III spent a year in Iraq in 2003 and Bill Parsons was in Kosovo on a peacekeeping mission around 2002. Bill Parsons then deployed twice each to Afghanistan and Iraq on three-month missions.
"Now they're back in Iraq and Charlie's packing his duffel bag," their father said.
The dangers of war do not go unnoticed by a family with so much to lose.
The elder Huber Parsons said he and wife, Phyllis, rely on their faith, as well as their sons' training, commanders and colleagues to protect what they can no longer keep safe.
"Yes, we shed tears from time to time, both of joy and apprehension," he said, his voice breaking. "There comes a time to let your children go, and we're past that point. They are doing what they feel called to do."