By T. M. Beller, New York City Recruiting BattalionSeptember 17, 2013
NEW YORK CITY -- They were born just three minutes apart in Queens, N.Y., and for nearly every minute since then, the 19-year-old Maldonado twins - Edward and Jacob - have been nearly inseparable.
They share an apartment, cook and share meals, play sports and take road trips together, and watch movies and New York Mets games together. They even complete each other's sentences.
So it wasn't out of the ordinary when the duo enlisted in the Army together July 25, after nearly seven months of motivating each other to exercise and lose a combined 65 pounds - completing turning around their lives - together.
"After the Navy wouldn't accept us because we were overweight, I called Edward about the idea of joining the Army together," said Jacob. "I was surprised. I didn't think he would want to explore it because he just thought the Army was all about the infantry."
Enter Staff Sgt. Matthew Johnson of the Army Career Center Flushing in Queens, who was honest with the pair about the challenge they faced losing a large amount of weight in order to enlist.
"We incorporated them into our Future Soldier physical training program to help them safely lose weight and stay motivated," Johnson said proudly. "Through their own hard work, they lost about 65 pounds. They have enlisted as human resources specialists, and get this - they will be going to the same basic combat training, same AIT and the same Airborne School together
Johnson mentored the brothers to lose the weight leveraging the Army Future Soldier physical fitness program and pocket guide so the pair could realize their dreams, their potential and avoid being an obesity statistic. Moreover, Johnson was convinced the Army could help them with finding purpose and direction - a life plan.
"It is hard for a young man [living] in Queens at 19 because you aren't in high school anymore," said Jacob. "And college may not be an option. So young men here find a different path to take, which isn't always the best choice."
"Now they've become a part of something bigger and much more positive," said Johnson proudly. "I am very happy for these guys, and I am excited to do this every day for these young men and women because they just need an opportunity to excel. Who knows, they might be the next sergeant major of the Army down the road."
Identical in physical appearance, the twins also share similar sentiments about what they hope to achieve in the Army and how they plan to contribute to the Army and their communities.
Edward wants to further his education and expand his horizons by taking advantage of all available Army programs, like the Basic Airborne Course.
"Even though I am afraid of heights, I just want to have the experience," he said enthusiastically.
For Jacob, enlisting was about personal development and selfless service. "I do hope to see the world, build my career and develop skills to help me with the workforce," said Jacob. "But more importantly, I hope to give back to the place where I came from. It's pretty rough in these New York City Housing Authority apartments. I see a lot of those people going down the wrong path. I would like to show them that lifestyle doesn't need to be the only choice. Your life can change by opening your mind and going down the right direction and making better choices such as my choice to join the Army."