Dorchester has sent scores of its young men and women into harm’s way in the decade since the United States went to war in Afghanistan and, later, Iraq.
But few neighborhood families have put more on the line that the Dohertys of Flavia Street, whose two oldest sons — Brian, 21, and Brendan, 19 — are serving their nation in Afghanistan this year. The brothers are two of the seven children in a tight-knit family that is extremely proud of Brian and Brendan, who elected to follow in their dad’s footsteps by enlisting in the Army.
“While anyone would find it difficult to have two members of their family deployed at the same time, the family has been overwhelmed by the amount of support we have received from our friends and neighbors,” said Jillian Doherty, 25, their eldest sister. “Not a day goes by without someone inquiring about the wellness of the boys and a reminder that they are on their minds at all times and in all places in Dorchester.”
Brendan, a combat engineer, shipped out for Afghanistan in January and was followed two months later by his older brother. While they are in close proximity to each other in the war zone, they serve in different units and typically can only communicate through family at home and occasionally on Facebook.
The brothers are looking forward to a ten- day relief for rest and recuperation during the summer and both hope to be home from this tour in time for Jillian’s wedding in March of 2012.
“Joining the military was something that Brian had wanted to do since he was a young child,” Jillian relates. “Both boys would play for hours with their G.I. Joe collection and asks their father endless questions about his time in the Army. It came as a surprise to nobody when Brian started the process of joining the Army during his senior year of high school.
After Brian completed basic training and was stationed at Fort Drum in New York, Brendan quickly caught on to the military lifestyle and decided that it was what he wanted for himself as well.
“Both have an [real] sense of patriotism and are proud to serve their country to the capacity that they do,” Jillian added. “When they are not deployed, Brian is still based out of Fort Drum and Brendan out of Fort Hood, Texas.”
Growing up, the Doherty boys were very active in neighborhood sports, activities, and other St. Brendan’s parish-related events. Both loved playing Cedar Grove Baseball for years, and later on Brian developed a passion for hockey, which Jillian said was a point of humor for many in the Doherty clan. “There’s something about being 6-foot-5 and in his shape on skates just didn’t seem right,” she said with a laugh.
The brothers have opposite personalities, Jillian said. “Brian is very serious and considerate, and Brendan is more laid back and fun loving. But both are dependable and resilient and always keep the family a priority and both can be counted on for a smile or a laugh.”
The boys have one major thing in common: big hearts. Both have always wanted to better themselves and others, their siblings say. They spent two weeks of a summer in New Mexico with a family friend, Father John Unni, and a neighborhood group rebuilding houses there for the local community.
Brian and Brendan have a large and loving family cheering for them: their parents, Mary and Brian, siblings Jillian, 25, Katie, 24, James, 14, twin sisters Joanna and Kerri, 11, and their grandfather Joe “Beepa” Doherty. They both also have a group of close-knit friends, many of whom are like added siblings to the family, who are giving all the support they can.
Several local school students have become pen pals with the brothers, including some at their alma mater, St. Brendan’s School, where their mother works, and at Pope John Paul II Academy, where their sister and aunt work.
The Leahy-Holloran Community Center will host a Care Package Drive on Sat., May 21, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 1 Worrell Street. Volunteers will be collecting and donating much needed supplies to send to local U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, including the Dohertys. The group is also looking for the names of other local soldiers to send packages to. Names and addresses can be e-mailed to Christine Bailey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After the first care pack drive was held at the Leahy-Holloran Center last November, it cost more than $2,200 just to mail the packages. Recently, a fundraiser was held at Blasi’s Café in Adams Corner, where $600 was contributed in just a few hours. With this in mind, anyone or any local business could help to lower the cost of shipping. Checks can be made payable to the Leahy-Holloran Community Center, Attn: Care Packs, 1 Worrell Street, Dorchester, MA, 02122. All donations are tax deductible.
Any extra money donated will be given to the event “Run to Home Base 9k.” It is a fund-raising run through scenic Boston ending with a once-in-a-lifetime experience of crossing “home base” at Fenway Park. The Run to Home Base will honor all veterans and help raise much-needed funds for the new Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Home Base Program. Funds raised will provide psychiatric care and community outreach to the many veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with combat stress disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, and/or traumatic brain injury.