Soldier surprises brother at school in Fraser

Pair hadn’t seen each other since 2016

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published February 12, 2018

 Aaron Arbitter, who graduated from Fraser High School in 2016, surprises his brother, Logan, Feb. 7 at Richards Middle School. They hadn’t seen each other since December 2016.

Aaron Arbitter, who graduated from Fraser High School in 2016, surprises his brother, Logan, Feb. 7 at Richards Middle School. They hadn’t seen each other since December 2016.

Photo by Sarah Purlee

 From left, the Arbitter family — father Grant; sons Logan and Aaron; and mother Christine — pose for a family photo.

From left, the Arbitter family — father Grant; sons Logan and Aaron; and mother Christine — pose for a family photo.

Photo by Sarah Purlee

FRASER — When he was called to the principal’s office the morning of Feb. 7, Richards Middle School seventh grader Logan Arbitter wasn’t sure what he did wrong.

When he arrived, Principal Huston Julian directed Arbitter to a dimly lit conference room next to his office. The lights turned on, and Logan Arbitter saw his brother, Aaron. Logan ran to him and gave him a giant embrace.

It was the first time that Logan had seen Aaron since December 2016. Aaron, 20, a military police officer in the U.S. Army, has been stationed at Camp Casey, a military base in Dongducheon, South Korea. 

A 2016 Fraser High School graduate, Aaron enlisted during his senior year, when a local recruiter visited the district. When he graduated from basic training, Aaron requested to be placed in either Germany or South Korea — a “wish list” that doesn’t always pan out.

When Aaron finished basic training, he was told he had four days until his departure. He was taught how to say “hello” and “thank you,” in Korean, learning everything else himself during his travels.

Aaron’s duties are actually quite similar to those of local officers. He makes sure that discipline occurs on the base. He handles situations involving domestic assaults and drunk and disorderly individuals. He has even driven large trucks.

He last saw his parents, Christine and Grant, Jan. 29, 2017, when he departed out of Missouri. At the end of this month, Aaron will depart for Fort Rucker, Alabama, for a three-year stint as part of his tour of duty. There is a 14-hour time difference between South Korea and the United States, but once he’s in Alabama, he will be just one hour behind.

“The separation part is, obviously, a little weird,” Christine said. “Obviously, 18 years in the house and then he’s up and gone. The transition into that was a little strange.”

Aaron’s father, Grant, is a military veteran who served in wars from 1994 to 1997. Grant never went overseas; rather, he was stationed in Fort Carson, Colorado, where he also served the South Korean people. He and Christine were married when Grant was deployed, providing some solace in terms of what to expect for her own son.

Still, the number of recent news stories related to North Korea can be overwhelming. Camp Casey is only 12 miles away from the North Korean border.

“Basically, if anything happened over there and North Korea decided to invade South Korea, we’d be right there ready to go,” Aaron said, mentioning that he was part of a special operations convoy that had radio connections with U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

Aaron said he never really saw college in his future, aside from maybe a swimming career. He wanted to be like his father, which Grant has called a “shiny dad moment.”

“It’s a huge source of pride for me,” Grant said. “We have pictures of (Aaron) when he was just a little kid wearing a military uniform because he always looked up to that. I still have all my old stuff. … It’s a great source of pride to know that he has that selfless act of, ‘Hey, I wanna join the service.’

“And hey, it’s not for everybody. But what he’s gonna get out of it far outweighs the potential risk up to and including my life, and it’s worth it. That’s the way I felt about it and I believe that’s the way he feels about it. It’s a blank check. No one can ever take that away from you as a veteran.”

Technology like FaceTime has helped the family cope with Aaron’s departure, seeing his face rather than just reading texts or hearing his voice.

Logan, who was previously visited by Aaron when he was a student at Mark Twain Elementary, is a quiet, laid back kid. He has grown up around a military family and has become conditioned to it.

The brotherly bond between them both remains strong. Logan, who also enjoys swimming and playing instruments, said he thinks about joining the military “every now and then.”

“I can definitely see he likes to follow in my footsteps,” Aaron said.

Aaron will be in town until Feb. 24. He’s excited to partake in family parties celebrating his return. He’s anxious to see old friends and find out what has changed in the area since he first departed.

Grant said that in the Arbitter household, he and his wife never expected their children to do as they aspired. They never pushed their will on their boys.

“Sometimes, you’ve got to shove them back on the path, but you let them blaze their own path,” Grant said. “That’s what makes a person an individual.”


>> Video: Richards Middle School student sees Army brother for first time since December 2016