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Hagel & Hagel: Brothers in arms

January 7th, 2013
06:18 PM ET

By Lucky Gold & Richa Naik, CNN

Never has the Pentagon been led by a common foot soldier, President Barack Obama said when he nominated the new Secretary of Defense Monday.

“Chuck Hagel’s leadership of our military would be historic. He’d be the first person of enlisted rank to serve as Secretary of Defense.”

The story of Chuck Hagel has become the stuff of legends.

Chuck and his younger brother, Tom, fought together in the jungles of Vietnam. The two are believed to be the only brothers to fight side by side there in the same unit.

While on patrol, they were hit by an exploding booby trap. Chuck was badly wounded and Tom was also hit. But Tom stopped his brother from bleeding to death and helped him to safety.

A month later, their armored vehicle struck a mine. Though he was badly burned, Chuck pulled Tom from the wreckage and saved his life.

However, Vietnam also drove the brothers apart. Tom began protesting against the war and Chuck defended it.

Eventually, the two reconciled and even returned to Vietnam together in 1999 to visit the very places where they had been wounded.

Chuck Hagel still carries the shrapnel and battle scars, but he may need all his battle skills in the confirmation fight to come.

He also carries the knowledge of the price of war. That’s one major reason why President Obama chose this ex-foot soldier to lead America’s armed forces.

MORE: Israeli diplomat: ‘Attacks on Hagel are vile and vicious’

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