Eric and Derek Morgan stand in front of the engineer castle at the Lexington armory. The iconic structure is a reminder to the brothers of the start of their military careers as combat engineers 17 years ago. (Photo by Jennifer Archdekin/Missouri National Guard)
By Jennifer Archdekin
LEXINGTON, Mo. - From their haircuts to their boots, to even the nose on their face, Eric and Derek Morgan are pretty much the spitting image of each other. As twin brothers who serve in the Missouri Army National Guard, the similarities between the two don't just end with their appearance.
Off and on throughout their 17 years in the Guard, the Morgan brothers have emulated each other, and now, as they both recruit for the Guard, are causing double-takes everywhere they go.
The Morgans grew up in Lexington and shortly after graduating high school in 1994 they shipped to Fort Leonard Wood for basic training -- together. From the very beginning the pair has been each other's battle buddy.
Initially, they thought having a brother by their side at basic would be a good thing. Though it did offer extra support, it also made for extra attention on the duo.
"The first words out of our drill sergeant's mouth were, 'Morgan Boys, front and center' -- the very first words," said Derek. "That first day the drill sergeant made me do push-ups until Eric hurt."
Though it was a little rough being center stage a lot of the time, the brothers took it in stride.
"We could look at each other and laugh," said Derek. "I think we ultimately became their favorites, as much as they messed with us at first. All you can do is just get stronger."
All of that "attention" produced two 165-pound Soldiers that were nothing but lean muscle mass. Looking back the Morgans appreciated all the fuss that was made over them.
After their training was complete the two reported to their unit in Lexington, which was then Company C, 110th Engineer Battalion, and they both served as combat engineers in the same platoon for about three years.
While Eric continued serving in his Lexington unit, Derek branched out in 1998 to recruiting. Then in 2004, Derek deployed to Iraq on a route clearance mission.
Upon Derek's return in2005, Eric was tapped for a similar mission in Iraq, also conducting route clearance in the same area Derek covered just a few months before.
"Actually, I think that the only time we have ever been really separated was at that point, for those two years," said Eric. "It was kind of weird."
During each of their deployments, it's no surprise each brother was concerned about the other. Derek's unit routinely went on patrols and provided convoy escorts, while Eric routinely went on route clearance missions outside of their base.
"I worried about him," said Derek. "I feel fortunate our whole battalion came back. We were fairly unscathed. You just don't know how much your luck is going to run. You worry, and then when you're brother is going over ...you just don't know how he's going to adjust."
Derek was confident his brother would fare well, but was still nervous.
"It's almost like a part of you is still there, so you didn't really leave," said Derek. "I just couldn't come home and wind down because my brother was there, and of course, friends from my company."
As for Eric, he too worried about his brother during his deployment, while also giving praise to their mother who had two of her sons gone for more than a year back to back.
"I know it was hard on her having one son coming home and one son leaving," said Eric. "She was stressed for two and a half years straight."
Upon the Morgans' return, a change was in the air. This time it was Eric who took up a career in recruiting in 2007, while Derek served with the 311th Brigade Support Battalion in Lexington.
It wouldn't be until March 2012 that the brothers would find themselves working together again, when Derek returned to recruiting in the Lexington area, and Eric continued to recruit in the Blue Springs and Independence areas.
This is the first time both have recruited at the same time, which naturally opened the door for a little healthy competition and rivalry with their recruiting areas neighboring each other. While the two may scuffle about who is better at their job, ultimately they help each other out.
"We talk daily," said Eric. "We might talk two or three times a day."
"During the day it's about work and at night it's about something else," said Derek. "Since I've gotten back into recruiting he's actually had to help me get back on track."
The brothers admit they are each other's best friend, which in turn makes them successful in the National Guard.
"We're tight like that," said Eric.
"My wife, I tell her she's my best friend, but she says she knows she's not, and that it's my brother," said Derek.
Eric currently lives in Blue Springs, while Derek, the younger Morgan by 20 minutes, still lives in Lexington.
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