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Twins separated by military life — and death
For 18 years, the Kramer brothers were nearly inseparable.
So when Aaron Kramer decided to join the Army, shortly after graduating from Skyline High School in Millcreek, his brother Brandon wasn’t far behind.
“They would have done just about anything to have been stationed together,” said the twins’ older sister, Jennifer Schroader. “Matching up leave dates — that was always a big thing.”
It didn’t happen often enough. Brandon was coming to the end of his tour of duty in Iraq when Aaron was beginning his year in Afghanistan. The 22-year-old brothers were eagerly anticipating a reunion once Aaron returned from the war next year.
And then, on Thursday, the terrible news came.
Aaron was among a team of soldiers holding down a base in southern Afghanistan when he was shot by Taliban rebels. He died during his evacuation to a military hospital.
Brandon was home on leave when his family received word of his brother’s death. “It was good to have him home,” Schroader said. “We wouldn’t have wanted him to be anywhere else when we all found out.”
On Friday, the surviving twin joined his parents on a trip to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to meet his brother’s remains.
Schroader said that her fallen brother had been deeply affected by the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Though just a middle school student at the time, he quickly resolved to prepare himself for military service.
“He started training, running and lifting weights,” she said. “You know, he always wore Army shirts, all during high school. He knew exactly what he wanted to do. And once he was old enough, he did it.”
Aaron’s death came as Afghanistan’s citizens were preparing for today’s parliamentary election — and bracing for the violence promised by Taliban fighters. His death brings to at least 333 the number of U.S. military members who have been killed in Afghanistan so far this year, the deadliest for U.S. forces since the beginning of the war in 2001.
Aaron had been married shortly before deploying to Afghanistan, having met his wife, Jackie, at the wedding of one of the soldiers with whom he had served in Iraq. She is a student in Wisconsin.
“You know, he was a little bit shy at first, growing up, just until he grew into his skin a little bit,” Schroader said. “But he turned into such an outstanding, caring person.”