A Brother's Salute
Academy Graduate Welcomed to Fleet by Deployed Brother
With 7,000 miles between them, they were face to face. One dressed in a uniform he'd been wearing for years, and the other dressed in a uniform he'd only just earned the right to wear.
Ens. Andrew Wondolowski returned his first salute via video teleconference from his brother, Machinist's Mate 2nd Class Philip Wondolowski, stationed aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, while IKE is supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.
"It's a privilege to be his first salute," said Philip. "I was a first salute for one of my chiefs when he became a warrant officer so I am honored to do it. I understand the significance of it and this is an awesome opportunity."
Philip and Andrew Wondolowski, grew up in Staten Island N.Y., and shared so much more than just a last name. Among other things, they shared a paper route, a love of track and field, and a desire to be part of something more.
So when Philip, the elder by five years, went off to join the Navy, it was only inevitable that Andrew would follow suit - only wearing a different one.
After getting commissioned in a graduation ceremony presided over by President Barack Obama, Andrew pledged an oath to support and defend the Constitution and placed Ensign shoulder boards on his uniform.
"I couldn't be any more grateful for the opportunity to have my brother be a part of this- a big day in my life- in person. It means a lot," said Andrew.
It almost didn't happen. Philip was hoping to be back for the graduation, the ship's schedule had them in port during that time. But then it changed - as it usually does.
In the past, that would have been the end of it. With a ship out to sea, there are no other options. But all it took were the right questions and some folks willing to provide the right answers, and one brother was able to put the finishing touch on the beginning of another's career.
"Watching my brother get to experience the Navy as an enlisted Sailor and meeting his friends- that's what really made me want to join the Navy too," said Andrew.
After the salute and the "I love yous" and "wish you were heres," the screen blurred, then went to black, the image gone, but not the moment. Like brotherly love, it will last.