SOUTHWEST ASIA - By any measure, Air Force Staff Sgt. Billy and Senior Airman Barrington Medeiros of the 143rd Airlift Wing had a tough childhood. Born in California, the identical twins - separated by only a minute - moved to Rhode Island at a very young age.
For the brothers, life there wasn't easy.
"My parents had a checkered past," Billy said. "It didn't stop when we were born. So when we were 10 years old, the state stepped in and removed Barrington, my two sisters and myself from our home."
The brothers initially stayed at a group home for troubled youth while the state looked for a foster home that would accept them all together.
"It was interesting," Billy said. "It's hard to place that many children, and even harder to place teenagers, as our situation was getting close to being."
The children initially were placed in a foster home together, but it was a short-lived situation. The state separated them about the time the twins turned 13. Billy went to a foster home in North Kingstown, R.I., and Barrington went to a home in Scituate, R.I.
The two lived 45 minutes apart, and although they saw each other at least monthly, they never lived together again. "We stayed in contact, but we grew up apart," Barrington said.
"It was tough," Billy said. "I probably went to six different elementary [and] junior high schools and three different high schools."
When he was 20, Barrington said, he lived in a car for a couple of weeks. "It had a great view, over the laundry basket in the passenger seat," he joked. "I was never late for work, because I slept in the parking lot."
Despite the obstacles, the two Air National Guard members have used the lessons learned in their youth and now serve their state and nation through a combination of hard work and discipline.
At 24, Billy was the first of the pair to join the Air National Guard as an aerospace propulsion technician. Barrington enlisted four years later, joining his brother in the engine shop.
"He went away to [basic training], and I went away to Afghanistan" Billy said. "I wanted more out of life, and the Guard gave it to me - it really did."
"I wanted to do something that my kids could be proud of," said Barrington, who recently was promoted to senior Airman.
In late October, the brothers, who are stationed at Quonset Air National Guard Base in Rhode Island, deployed here as part of the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing. Though Billy has deployed multiple times, this is Barrington's first time.
"It's a lot less stressful than being here alone, I will say that," Barrington said. "There's no one else I'd rather be working with. There's no one else I'd rather have watching my back."
Air Force Maj. Christopher Peloso, the officer in charge of the brothers' section, said the twins have made a distinct impression on him.
"Having the Medeiros twins on this deployment has been a force multiplier to our aircraft maintenance unit," he said. "They're cut from the same cloth, which embodies hard work ethic, integrity, responsibility and accountability. To witness their success in life and on this deployment, despite the obstacles, is inspiring. I'm extremely proud to have them on the team."
The Medeiros brothers are similarly proud of their service.
"[Deploying] has definitely been something very positive," Billy said. "It offers something that most civilians will never see or do."