The 3654th Maintenance Company of the Iowa National Guard gained a new, honorary member Saturday afternoon. 

Marcus Estes has been with the Guard for three years, and has spent the last two with the 3654th. A few months ago, he put in a request to make his special needs brother, Bryan, an honorary member. 

"It means a lot to me," Marcus said. Bryan is 23 years old with the mental capacity of a nine-year-old. He has mental retardation, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and mild post-traumatic stress disorder, among other health issues. 

Marcus, age 20, is a Specialist E-4 Vehicle Mechanic with the Guard. There are many reasons why he joined - to serve his country and help those in need. The unit most recently aided Cedar Rapids with flood relief. 

Growing up, Marcus knew how much Bryan looked up to service members. He also knew that Bryan would serve if he could. 

"I knew that he couldn't join," Marcus said. "It is something I should do because he can't. I'm serving for him. He can experience it through me." 

The Guard was able to grant Marcus's request. The family kept the honorary induction a secret from Bryan and when they traveled to Knoxville from Huxley, Bryan knew a surprise awaited him. He did not know what. 

Late in the afternoon, the unit was called together. Company Commander, Captain Adam Cooper, called Bryan to the front of the formation and presented him with a backpack full of gifts from the Guard. This included uniforms, MRE's, boots and more. 

Bryan's mother, Stephanie, said she was proud of her sons. The hard part was keeping it a secret from Bryan. 

"I think it's really cool," Cooper said. The Guard does not get many requests for this, but he is glad to have one. 

"We try to do family events, generally in the holiday season," Cooper said. He knows what events like this mean to the family, as well as the Guard's own community and the community at large. 

"I'd like it if more units would do this," Cooper said. 

As for Bryan, he had little to say other than he was excited to receive the unexpected honor. Bryan said he is proud of his brother, and the entire 3654th. 

Steve Woodhouse is the Editor of the Knoxville Journal-Express. He can be reached at

Recommended for you