Lasting bonds forged in service and honor

W & L grad saluted by childhood Marine friend

LEXINGTON, Va. – A simple gesture with a profound meaning.

When Washington & Lee grad Jaden Keuhner was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the Army, Afghanistan Marine veteran Christian Brown was the first to salute him.

A special surprise for Keuhner, a well-planned show of admiration and thanks from Brown.

”Definitely something that gives you goosebumps, and then taking that first salute from someone who you have respected half of my life and you know what he did to sacrifice for his country and hopefully that I can live up to that some of the stuff that he’s been able to do,” Keuhner explained.

“For me, it was very emotional moment. Just to give him that first salute and congratulate him becoming a man and then setting out on a journey that ultimately is going to save lives,” Brown said.

Keuhner met Corporal Brown more than a decade ago, when he and his father visited injured vets at Walter Reed Medical Center. The injured Marine and the ‘then’ 9 or 10-year-old became fast friends — doing things that friends do together.

“We would eat dinners together we would go to events together that Walter Reed had but mostly it was breaking out. It was going fish. That was the key thing we took him and his dad fishing and they had an exceptional time. He loved to do that so we would do that,” Brown said.

“So just in the hospital we almost like acted like a big brother to me so we’d hang out we talk about baseball, fishing, it was more than just like, hey, I’m going to go meet them. It was more like their buddies trying to make their lives as close to normal as possible,” Keuhner recalled.

The two kept tabs on each other but had not been face-to-face in maybe 10 years. Jaden was set to continue his military and medical career at — you guessed it — Walter Reed Medical Center.

It would be a no-brainer for Brown to fly from Tennessee to honor him.

“Awesome kid. Came at a young age, he developed being around veterans, understanding what they’re going through, seeing the hospital mindset, and the doctors do what they do, and he was like, ‘I want to do that.’” Brown said.

“He had just as much of a huge impact on my life. I’m not sure I would’ve started down the Army career path if I hadn’t had such prominent military figure growing up,” Keuhner said.

Sacrifice, honor, and understanding — shared so long ago has bound them for a lifetime.

About the Author

John serves as the Sports Director at WSLS 10. From Virginia Tech, to NASCAR and everything in between, WSLS 10 Sports covers the names making big plays in the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB.

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