Brothers In Arms

Reporting by Diane Roberts

Edited for web by Joe Harman


Going to a service academy probably was a no-brainer for David and Eric Esqueda, the twin brothers from Texas; they come from a long line of US Naval Academy graduates.


“I knew I wanted to serve in the military, but I wasn’t sure what branch I wanted to join,” said Eric Esqueda, speaking to BTL’s Diane Roberts on Zoom from his berth at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, “but I started communicating with the Marine Corps recruiters in El Paso. And, from there, I decided that . . . I wanted to come to the Naval Academy and pursue a commission as an officer in the Marine Corps.”


And Eric did go to the Naval Academy, just like his grandfather, father, uncle and older brother did before him.


And as you can imagine, with a family history of Naval Academy graduates and service to the nation, the annual Army-Navy Game is a very big deal in the Esqueda household.


“It’s pretty much just been a thing we’ve done, every single year. We watch the Army Navy Game,” David said, on the same zoom call.


And Eric added, “I felt like you’re in the presence of family members who have served in the military. Just watching the game, the pregame videos and March-On and the whole celebration . . ., it makes you feel like you want to serve.”


This year, as COVID-19 shifted the storied Army-Navy Game, traditionally played at a neutral venue that can meet attendance demands, to West Point’s Michie Stadium, the twin brothers Esqueda were in the crowd to cheer on their squad -- but on opposite sides of the rivalry.


Cadet David Esqueda attends the United States Military Academy at West Point. While his twin brother, Eric Esqueda, is a Midshipman at the United States Naval Academy.


Why did David chose a different path from his family? He explained his choice to Diane:


“Growing up in my hometown of El Paso, Texas, which is the home of Fort Bliss, one of the largest military installations in the country and the world, has given me an insight into the culture of the Army and I felt like that was the best fit for me, personally.”


This year, the choices of these Freshmen came into sharp focus in the week of December 7th. On Saturday, the 12th the twins would become sworn enemies as opposing fans at the Army-Navy Game . . . but during a pandemic.


In the same stadium at the same time on Game Day, but on different sides, the twins lamented that COVID precautions prevented them from meeting up, but that didn’t stop them from taunting each other over FaceTime.


“My friends are talking to him saying, ‘Oh yeah, you guys suck. We’re going to win,’” David related, smiling and laughing into the camera, “and then his friends saying the same things back to my friends and me. So, it was just a fun experience.”


With COVID affecting everything in 2020, including the Army-Navy Game, Diane asked the freshman twins if they felt cheated at all by many compromises.


“It feels a little cheated,” Eric lamented, “but it was a unique experience for me to be able to travel to West Point and see the stomping grounds of my brother. But other than that I feel like it was pretty normal, the only difference was that there wasn’t tens of thousands of other people there.”


David agreed that having his twin brother visit West Point was “the next best thing” to having the opportunity to visit a huge NFL stadium filled to capacity with passionate fans. “We’re pleased,” he stated, “We still have future years to look forward to.”


Despite the good-natured rivalry between the twins, they haven’t lost their perspective.


“Sometimes I lose sight of the fact that I’m at West Point,” David shared, his smile finally giving way to a more solemn expression, “and I go outside and look at these buildings. I see the stomping grounds where all these great American generals and Presidents and astronauts have gone to school. It’s just amazing.”


“It’s just a football game,” he admitted, “but this one is so much more.”


“I feel exactly the same way,” Eric agreed, again describing what he felt at the 2020 Army Navy Game, “It was crazy to be looking around, knowing that every single person there has taken an oath to serve this country and willing to risk our lives for those around them, and to protect the American ideals the we all treasure every day.”