Cleburne High School sophomore Austin Hill will have an extra voice cheering for him at tonight’s junior varsity football game, coming from his U.S. Marine Corps brother.
PFC Chase Hill made a surprise visit to his brother’s classroom Friday following his arrival in Texas from Camp Pendleton, where he has been stationed. While Austin’s first remarks to his older brother were that he was now the taller of the two, brotherly love was evident.
“I’ve definitely gotten taller since I last saw him, which was in May, for about 30 minutes at the airport,” Austin said. “I admit to missing him — a little bit. When we found out he was coming, I thought my mom would try to have him surprise me at school. But then it looked like he might not get leave, so I wasn’t expecting it so much.”
Sports and video games have been bridges between the brothers, who are seven years apart in age. Chase, who is a 2018 graduate of Joshua High School, played football for the Owls.
“It was Chase who taught me how to throw the football — and catch it and kick it,” Austin said. “He taught me how to play. Now that he is away, we play videos together online.”
While Austin claims he tends to best the Marine in video gaming, Chase is looking forward to some in-person time with his little brother to set the record straight.
“We played a lot of sports together growing up, even though there was a pretty big difference in our ages,” Chase said. “I’m glad I have enough leave days to be here when he plays on Thursday. All I want to do is spend time with family and relax.”
Chase is about to be stationed in Okinawa, which will be his first overseas assignment since joining the service in 2019.
“I had thought about joining the military after graduation, but wasn’t sure what branch,” he said. “My father was in the Army. I had visited several recruiting offices, but when I walked into the Marine Corps office, they were the most welcoming. I thought I would go infantry, but there weren’t any spots open. So I was sent to the artillery.”
He is now a cannoneer and can run a howitzer. He has also received training in the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, also known as a HIMARS. The light multiple rocket launcher was first used by the Marines during combat in Iraq. In taking it down to layman’s terms, Chase describes it as a “truck that shoots rockets.”
His short time in the military has taken him to southern California, where Chase has been stationed since graduation from boot camp. Now poised to see some of the world, the 22-year-old is soaking in as much of Texas as he can. His first stop after leaving the airport was lunch at Whataburger. He also has Six Flags on his to do list.
Sabrina Porter, who is the secretary to CHS Principal Ben Renner, took the lead on arranging the surprise visit, following a phone call from the brothers’ mother, Jennifer Cannon.
“I was an Army brat,” Porter said. “Stuff like this brings tears to my eyes. I was young when my dad was sent to Korea and Viet Nam. I can’t imagine siblings being away from each other as long as these have. They were really cute — you could tell they have a bond. It was very touching.”
With two years of high school — and Jackets football — still to come, Austin is leaving his options open for what lies ahead.
“My first plan is football,” he said. “I’d like to get a scholarship and play in college. If not, I may join the Marines — and it was my idea first.”