NAZARETH -- Shortly after David Daugherty turned 18, his mother arrived home to find a car with government license plates parked out front. Before Patty Daugherty even opened the door, she knew a military recruiter was in her living room.
“I came in and said ‘you aren’t signing anything,’ ” she said. “The recruiter just kind of smiled and laughed because (David) was 18.”
The Daugherty clan is in a position many families pray they will never find themselves. Three of their boys are Marines serving in Iraq. Yet family members said they couldn’t be prouder.
“They’re three of the best kids,” said Sarah Horning, the boys’ grandmother. “They were raised right and taught discipline and respect. Everybody knows my grandsons are in Iraq.”
David Daugherty is now 22 and serving in Iraq with his 25-year-old brother, Patrick. Their cousin, Harry Horning II, 26, is a lieutenant in the Marine Corps also serving in Iraq. Sarah Horning, a West Easton resident, said Harry’s father also enlisted and served in the Marine Corps.
“This is something that they want to do,” Patty Daugherty said. “It’s almost like they’re driven to do it. I can’t imagine saying: ‘Our son’s not going to go, someone else’s son can.’”
There are bad days and good days, she said. Thursday was particularly tough. She broke down crying while driving to work. A nurse, she is juggling three jobs to stay busy. Her husband, Fred Daugherty, fills his time with his job and volunteer work. The first thing she does each morning is e-mail her sons. It’s also the last thing she does each night.
The family knows where the boys are stationed but cannot divulge their location. They don’t know what the boys are doing or when they are getting home -- most Marines ship out for seven months at a time. All they know is they work grueling hours. Patrick Daugherty hasn’t had a day off since he shipped out in September.
Patty Daugherty said her sons call as often as they can. As an officer, Harry Horning II has more phone access and calls his wife each night and his parents each Sunday, Sarah Horning said.
The family said they find comfort knowing the boys are together in the same area. When one calls home, the family gets updated on all of them.
Patrick Daugherty surprised the family with his enlistment after graduating from Bloomsburg University with a degree to teach middle school English, his mother said.
“I asked him where he was going for his master’s degree. He said to me, ‘I’m going in the Marines,’” she said. “I cried and told him he wasn’t Marine material because he is just so tenderhearted. The first time I saw him with a rifle I bawled. But he felt he had a responsibility to go.”
David Daugherty’s enlistment wasn’t a surprise. He enlisted in the Reserves because his mother wanted him to first go to college. He had to put his criminal justice major at West Chester University on hold to ship out. He landed in Iraq at 12:01 a.m. Sept. 22, 2006, the same moment he turned 22.
Harry Horning II graduated from Virginia Tech and went directly into officer candidacy school in 2003 at Quantico, Va. Sarah Horning said he is an only child.
Patty Daugherty said when David left, she asked him, “What am I going to do without you and your hugs?”
He told her: “You know what, Mom, you’ve protected me all my life and now it is time for me to protect you.”