Brothers in Arms

By: Jim Freeman
By: Jim Freeman

Maryville, Blount County (WVLT) - The military calls it the "buddy plan”, it allows you to enlist in the same branch of the armed services with a friend.

But there are two Blount County best friends that have a very own version of the "buddy plan."

So just how far would you go for your best friend? In this "buddy plan", Ben Belitz is going half-way around the world for his.

When Air Force Senior Airman Ben Belitz found out that Army Private First Class Matt Isbell was ordered to Iraq, he volunteered to go, too. These days they wear different uniforms, but they're both heading off to the same war.

This buddy plan goes way back, back to the diaper days.

"My first memory of them was Matt walking in the church nursery and Ben, he's six-months behind Matt, and Ben crawling after him,” says Cathy Wilkerson, Matt’s mother, says.

Over the years, Matt and Ben or Ben and Matt have had their share of scrapes.

"Ben was spending the night and they had a BB gun and somebody shot the neighbors dog with the BB gun. They obviously got in trouble over that," Celia Belitz recalls.

As the years passed, the scrapes became a little more serious.

"’I wrecked my truck first and Matt made fun of me, and paybacks are sweet. A week later, he wrecked his truck’” Cathy remembers Matt saying. “And he said, ‘I joined the military and a year later, Matt joins the military.’"

"Actually, Ben is the one who encouraged Matthew to join the military after he joined," Ben’s mother Cecila Belitz recalls.

These two are certainly brothers in spirit if not by birth. They'll deploy together in August.

Matt is serving in Germany and returns home later this month for his wedding.

Ben is stationed in Wyoming.

Even though these best friends deploy together for Iraq in August, chances are they will not be stationed at the same base.


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