Brothers in arms and life reunite to celebrate 35 years of service

By Rachel PortoMay 31, 2023

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FORT KNOX, Ky - In 2021, two career Soldiers discovered they were not only brothers-in-arms, but also brothers by blood. In the wake of the astounding revelation in November 2021, they found their lives had many parallels: both officers in the military, both brothers of the same fraternity, both married to nurses who are sisters in the same sorority, both with children born on the same day. After more than 50 years apart, their meeting was truly kismet.

Since their reunification, the two Soldiers, Maj. Gen. Robert Edmonson and Col. Eric Jackson, along with third brother, Brian, have gotten to know one another and strengthen their bond with their families. They’ve been able to take in a football game together, spend time vacationing with both extended families, and meet up in-between Army duties.

On May 12, 2023, all three again united, this time in celebration of Jackson’s retirement. After more than 35 years serving in the U.S. Army, it was time for Jackson to say farewell to the career he admitted to “being in love with” and hello to his next chapter as a Soldier for life. Edmonson traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky, to host his younger brother’s retirement ceremony, where he delivered heartfelt remarks, as well as the final salute Jackson would ever make while wearing the uniform. Jackson’s retirement was an event full of emotion, celebration and reflection.

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“Team Jackson” was out in full force, with Jackson’s wife, children, mother, brothers, aunts, cousins and lifelong friends among audience members. He was also surprised by the attendance of some Soldiers from past units. Mentors, mentees and colleagues attended both in-person and virtually.

Edmonson’s remarks centered on the importance of the relationships Jackson built during his time in the Army. This included the families who stood behind their Soldiers, the friends and neighbors that became family, and the young Soldiers the seasoned officer took under his wing.

Edmonson commented on another commonality between the two brothers: the desire to mentor others. He pondered the strength of DNA and nature-versus-nurture, noting some of Jackson’s favorite jobs in the Army were ones where he was able to build lasting mentorships with his Soldiers.

“You imparted strength and perseverance on your team, ensuring continued success,” Edmonson said. “You led by example, showing them how to push forward, even through adversity.”

He concluded by sharing his gratitude for the legacy of service the Jackson family left behind, including the brothers’ biological father, and implored his younger brother to continue connecting with Soldiers even in his retirement.

Jackson began his remarks, “Sir. Brother. Bruh. Bro,” and thanked Edmonson for being a part of the ceremony. While he said it was not how he ever thought he would open his retirement remarks to someone who outranked him, he felt it encompassed their relationship and how they had gone through all those stages together.

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Jackson’s remarks were focused on love, friendship and storms. He encouraged those listening to, “Have love for what you do; have love for others doing it with you. … It’s these friends and family who will be there to help you navigate any storms that will come.”

After the ceremony, the brothers reflected on the emotions they felt during the experience.

“The United States Army has given me three opportunities,” Edmonson said. “First of all, the Army gave me the opportunity at life by being born in Germany. Secondly, the Army gave me the opportunity to succeed when I was adopted out of a German orphanage by a Soldier. And thirdly, the Army’s given me the opportunity to serve … and that service is what allowed us [Eric, Brian and I] to connect.”

“Army and emotion are absolutely linked together,” Jackson said. “Love from our natural families, love from our Army brothers and sisters … and love for what we do for the great American public that we serve.”

While the brothers are still learning to navigate this journey together, Edmonson said he was still learning to be a brother.

“You can’t go 55 years on this earth as an only child and then wake up one day and realize you’re the oldest brother of three and have it all figured out.”

Jackson is excited for his retirement, which will allow him more time to spend with his family, including the Edmonsons. Jackson said his next step was to accept the orders given from his eldest brother and to go be the best dad he could be.

“I look forward to the opportunity to continue to remind Eric that he’s a part of the Army,” Edmonson said of how he planned to help his brother as he transitions to retirement. “That we are a part of the Army, and whether you are a retiree or on active duty, we are Soldiers for life, and we remain brothers-in-arms.”

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