Adopted twins journey from Kazakhstan to U.S. military
TENNESSEE. KAZINFORM - Always, he protected her.
At night when they were little, she would run to his room when a thunderstorm raged outside.
At school in their adolescent years, he defended her when others would torment.
A young man with broad shoulders and firm biceps, Michael Gore always took care of his twin sister, a tiny bundle of energy who stands barely reaching his collarbone.
He always was taught, he says, to defend self and family "no matter what."
Now - at 17 years old - he will soon add another responsibility.
Defending his country.
And the sister he always protected will come, too.
It's a unique twist for a pair of siblings with an already interesting history.
Born in Kazakhstan, they were adopted by a Nashville couple. This spring the twins, both recent U.S. citizens who are part of the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps at McGavock High School, will graduate and enlist to serve their new country. Michael into the active-duty Marine Corps.
Meagan into the Army Reserve.
"I want to follow in his footsteps," Meagan says. "He's my brother and my only blood. He has made me proud of him, and I want to make him proud of me."
The twins started their first steps together in an orphanage more than an ocean away. Just 3 years old when they were adopted, they don't remember much of their toddler life, only, Meagan says, a particular meal that they were often served - soup, water and thick vanilla wafers.
"Everything was warm," she says, remembering the drinks in particular, "because there was no ice."
The meager diet kept them tiny. When they were adopted, they were wearing only 18-month-sized clothes. The first time Michael saw his adoptive father, Al, he came running and said "Papa."
The action jolted the heart of Al Gore. He and his wife already had a son, but complications after his birth left the couple unable to have any more children. On a Labor Day weekend 14 years ago they connected with the twins who would fill their days with new joy.
When they arrived in Tennessee, the twins spoke only Russian. They shyly said "privyet." Hi. And repeated over and over again the words "mushka, mushka" in response to the flies that buzzed around their head.
There were plenty of flies on the farm where they lived in Joelton, a place where their father cared for horses and dogs while running his own telecom business.
Over time, they became as American as any other kid. Michael played football. Meagan, always the girly type, became a cheerleader.
Still, their connection to blood and their birthplace remains strong.
They chose McGavock because, at the time, the school taught Russian. Both twins hoped to relearn the language with the desire of one day returning to their birth country and connecting with relatives.
The Russian program ended as they arrived at the school. But they found other passions, including the JROTC.
Michael joined as a freshman, quickly establishing his leadership as the first freshman to command the color guard team. Meagan joined a year later.
In time, taking on responsibility within the organization, the siblings learned conflict resolution and map reading. They participated in service learning events. They collected drill and rifle competition trophies, of which their father is very proud.
The structure also brought out something inside the small girl who once was the object of teasing. Now, cadets call her "ma'am."
"I'm pint-sized, but I'm dynamite," the girl says with a smile, looking all business in her pressed military dress, long hair up in a tight bun.
In JROTC the twins also found something else - a path.
Meagan sees the military reserves as a way to pay for a college education her family may otherwise not be able to afford. Michael, who has considered a career in the police force, sees the military as a way to prepare for a future protecting not just his family but his country and his city.
Meagan will head off to basic training Aug. 3 and return in December. Michael will leave shortly after she comes back.
It will set up a new dynamic.
This time, because Meagan will be the first to take this next big step for the siblings, it will be the little sister showing the way for her broad-shouldered brother. Kazinform refers to tennessean.com.
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