NORTH RIDGEVILLE — Jeremy Howells and Justin Rogerson have been best friends since they were 5 and have done almost everything together — played sports, got into mischief and graduated high school.
Today, they will begin their training to become U.S. Army soldiers.
Howells and Rogerson were gathered Tuesday afternoon on Rogerson’s patio to say their final goodbyes to their fiancees. Within three hours, the 18-year-olds were to report to a U.S. Army recruiting station in Cleveland.
From there, Howells and Rogerson were to be up by 4 a.m. today to report to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri for boot camp.
“I’m really excited and anxious,” Rogerson said, rubbing his hands together. “I’m not looking forward to doing the push-ups and sit-ups, but I’m looking forward to being a soldier.”
The recent North Ridgeville High School graduates played on the school’s football team as defensive and offensive linemen, played in the Lorain County All-Star football game and wrestled together.
They even inadvertently got engaged on the same day, July 1.
After their nine weeks of boot camp, the duo — born 15 days apart — will begin advance individual training to become military police.
“I’m definitely glad I’m going with (Howells) instead of going at it alone,” Rogerson said.
Rogerson said family tradition influenced him to enlist. Rogerson’s dad, Jeff, served in the military, and his older brother, Adam, is stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky.
For Howells, it was something he set his mind to do during his senior year of high school.
“I always wanted to do it,” Howells said.
“There’s no talking him out of it,” said Ashley Harnish, Howells’ fiancee.
Even though they try to be fearless, the two are uneasy about going overseas. Justin has heard gruesome stories from his brother, who was injured in Iraq.
Howells and Rogerson will be leaving home for the first time for about 22 weeks. They hope to be back by Christmas.
Rogerson’s fiancee, Katie Boose, said it seems surreal.
“I’m OK with it, but even though he’s leaving today, I still don’t feel like it’s reality,” Boose said, adding that she knows it will hit her eventually.
The duo signed up for five years of active duty followed by three years of being a part of the Army Reserve. They hope to afterward work for the Ohio Highway Patrol.
“I think it’s a great honor to serve in the military, and it’s a great educational (experience),” Jeff Rogerson said proudly. “It made my other son (Adam) more of a man; it makes them grow up.”
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Chuck Humel / Chronicle
North Ridgeville residents Justin Rogerson (left) and Jeremy Howells, both 18, have been best friends since kindergarten. Now, both have signed up for the Army and today will begin basic training.