Nashville brothers fulfill family legacy of military service

Courtesy: The Norton Family
Courtesy: The Norton Family

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Brothers Will and Jameson Norton grew up in Nashville. The pair attended Montgomery Bell Academy (MBA) for high school.

Will, now 35, attended Wake Forest University on an Army ROTC scholarship.

“Growing up we had a great legacy of two grandfathers who fought in World War II,” Will said. “My dad had served in the Navy, out of Vanderbilt ROTC, so we always kind of had a sense of duty.”

Jameson, now 33, was a senior in high school in the fall of 2001.

Unlike Will, Jameson was not as sure about joining the military.

Courtesy: The Norton Family
Courtesy: The Norton Family

The day of the September 11 attacks, Jameson was sitting in class at MBA.

“I was in English class senior year,” he said. “[Someone] came in, disrupted the class and said something had happened. 9/11, I think, for all of us, was a call to action,” he said.

Jameson said there were two other factors in his decision to join the military.

One was his grandfather, a former Marine, whose picture adorns Jameson’s office.

“He had a heart attack my senior year,” he recalled.

Jameson said the third factor pushing him toward armed service was his big brother Will. He decided to attend the University of Virginia on an ROTC scholarship.

Unlike Will, Jameson decided to join the Marines.

For Will, the September 11 attacks meant he would serve in the military during wartime.

Courtesy: Jameson Norton
Courtesy: Jameson Norton

“When the reality of all that kind of sunk-in, and we invaded Iraq right before I graduated, in May of 2003, it was clear. I remember saying goodbye to my college friends, full well knowing what we were stepping into. It was a pretty sobering event,” Will told News 2. “I got married on Saturday, commissioned in the Army on Sunday, and graduated from college on Monday.”

Upon graduation from college, Jameson was stationed at Camp Pendleton in California.

“I was an infantry officer in the Marine Corps, Camp Pendleton, Second Battalion, Fourth. So, I was actually the same regiment as my grandfather: Fifth Marine Regiment, stationed at the same base.”

Will was deployed twice, first to Iraq and Kuwait, where he led an artillery platoon.

“It was pretty surreal. We drove right through Baghdad, and sure enough as we’d been told and trained for, one of the IEDs hits one of our trailer’s back, and we had to a react that, and thankfully nothing happened and nobody was hurt. It just neutralized their vehicle.”

He described the stress of combat. “It’s kind of like, just an edginess, where you are just kind of waiting for what’s going to happen next, and you don’t know what’s going to happen next.”

Jameson was deployed to the Philippines and later the Middle East, where he led a tactical recovery team.

“As part of that, you recover aircraft when they go down in a hostile area or any area at all. [You] conduct rescue of the pilot on site and any demolition needed to secure any sensitives material or items, and the aircraft is recovered,” he said.

Courtesy: Will Norton
Courtesy: Will Norton

Both Jameson and Will married their now wives while in the military. Their deployments took tolls on their families and relationships.

“Our wives are saints. Military wives are saints,” said Will.

Jameson described returning home from a deployment and readjusting to living with his wife.

“It was almost like our first year of marriage, even though it was our fourth year of marriage at that point,” he recalled.

Will experienced the same thing.

“It’s kind of a like a stranger. You get to know each other again, and my second tour, my son had been born while I was gone, so that was a whole other dynamic,” he said.

Both have since been honorably discharged from the military and chose professions aimed at helping other people.

Today, Will is the Dean of the High School at their alma mater, Montgomery Bell Academy.

“For MBA, it was very fulfilling to jump into an environment that was focused on developing young men. In a lot of ways, the values of the military were very similar to the ethos that’s being instilled in the young men at MBA,” he said.

Jameson is now the new CEO of the Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital.

He said he was drawn to work in behavioral health after seeing fellow veterans struggling with mental illness.

The two brothers said their time in the military has made them even closer than they were already.

Jameson said, “We get together every Sunday now. You’re just so thankful to be back home, in Nashville, a special place for our family. I think it really adds special meaning, being together.”