Robert Branch considers himself a God-fearing man who believes in hard work and clean living, a mindset he shares with his family and his three brothers.
But it’s not the only thing he and his siblings have in common.
Branch’s father, Carlos, spent two years in the Army, and that experience would be something that affected his four sons.
The foursome together have a total of 98 years of military service, 100 years including their father, who served in the Army during World War I.
Carlos C. Jr., now 86, retired from the Air Force after 31 years, Thomas, now 83, retired from the Air Force after 20-plus years, Billy, now 77, retired from Marines after 25-plus years and Robert, who turns 79 next month, retired from the Army after serving 21 years.
“Two of us went in before we were even of age,” Robert Branch said. “The oldest went in at 16 because the second World War was going, and when it was my turn, I joined at 15.”
Throughout his tours, Branch served in the Korean and Vietnam wars, and was honored with two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star.
“I went into the Army in 1949 and immediately after basic, I went to Guam when I was 16,” he recalls. “I got to Korea Aug. 4, 1950 and turned 17 the next day.”
While in Korea, Branch was a part of a combat engineer outfit that built bridges to get across rivers.
“We were getting shot at while building bridges, so I changed and went into infantry,” he said.
Branch arrived in Vietnam in 1967, serving for a year and getting wounded twice. His kid brother, Billy, was also in Vietnam at the time and was also wounded.
Branch retired from the military in August of 1970 at Fort Wolters.
“All of us think alike, and we would like to have the opportunity to do it all over again, thinking that we would do better than we did the first time,” Branch said of himself and his siblings. “The military was good for all of us, and even though I’m 100 percent disabled now, it’s been a great trip.”
While his father’s military background played a role in his decision to join, it was the death of Robert Branch’s mother that prompted him to sign up at the age of 15, accompanied by his father’s signature.
“The home I was raised in was very patriotic, but the main reason I joined was because my mother was killed in a car wreck when I was 14 and I was very, very close to her,” he said. “It shattered my whole world, and I realized I couldn’t be around where she was anymore.”
Branch said the military and his father’s influence have had an impact on the way he now lives his life.
“The military causes a man or woman to grow up fast and to learn how to accept responsibility,” he said. “We joined the service for a whole different reason than most people today. Many join today to see what they can get out of it, but our thoughts were what could we contribute or how could we be productive. You don’t ask why, it’s do or die.”
Today, Branch stays busy with his five children, six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. One of his grandsons is currently serving in the Army.
He also maintains close contact with his siblings and every once in awhile, he and his brothers all get together for a reunion.
“None of us drink or smoke and all four of us are God-fearing men and have raised our families in that tradition,” he says. “I’ve lived in the best of times and I’m so appreciative of this country.”
His relationship with Christ also flourished after his military stint, as Branch worked for an electric company before surrendering to ministry, pastoring at two churches.
“I was in the ministry for about 20 years, which is a big leap from infantry,” he said.
While no records could be found to compare to Branch’s family history, his story and a picture of himself and his brothers caught the public’s attention on a Facebook page for the 1st Cavalry Division Association.
“When I saw the photo and information about his family with all those years of experience, my jaw dropped and hit the ground,” Ralph Nicholson, retired military who resides in Louisiana, said. “I’ve heard of brothers and dads and grandfathers, where people have had a lineage, but these guys are very humble, and he didn’t post it for any recognition, just as something he was proud of.
“I’m very impressed with what he and his brothers did.”