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War hits home for Northwestern’s Bryce McNaul

Bryce McNaul

Bryce McNaul

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Updated: November 16, 2011 1:24AM

Northwestern senior linebacker Bryce McNaul has a calmness about him when he talks about his older brother, Austin, who is an Army Ranger stationed in Afghanistan. McNaul is almost matter-of-fact when he talks about Austin’s assignment and how he communicates with his him.

After last Saturday’s Chinook helicopter crash in Afghanistan that killed 38 Americans and Afghans, McNaul seems to be even more in awe of his brother and the dangerous mission he is undertaking.

“He’s doing really well and got promoted to be second in command for close to 130 guys,” McNaul said. “This spring and summer has been the fighting season over there where the conflict and violence has beefed up. And with the killing of [Osama] bin Laden its been pretty hectic from what I’ve gathered.

“He’s not allowed to let a lot out, but when he does it’s pretty incredible what he’s doing. He’s a bad dude and he’s taking care of business.”

McNaul keeps up with his brother on Facebook and Austin McNaul keeps in touch with his family maybe once every couple of weeks. McNaul said his brother usually isn’t in a mood to talk about what is going on in Afghanistan, but would rather discuss the mundane things in the McNaul family’s lives.

“I’ve gotten maybe three phone calls since he’s been over there since last October, and every time I drop everything and talk to him,” McNaul said.

Austin, 25, graduated from West Point and was deployed to Afghanistan last October. McNaul was able to see his brother before the deployment because the Wildcats had an open date in mid-October. The Wildcats will play at Army on Sept. 17.

McNaul said his teammates respect the private conversations between the brothers and usually stay off the subject, but sometimes McNaul finds himself opening up to teammates and mentions something about Austin.

Being in a military family, the McNauls take news such as last week’s Chinook crash seriously. Even though most of the victims were Navy SEALS and not Army Rangers, that didn’t make McNaul any feel better

“Unfortunately you kind of get used to it, but it is [Austin] living his dream,” McNaul said. “As much as you want to sulk and be down about it, you have to be happy for him that he’s out there living a fulfilled life.”

McNaul said his brother is scheduled to leave Afghanistan around Oct. 12.

“We’re counting down the days,” McNaul said. “My mom’s got the tally. I’m sure she’s ripping off [pages of] the calendar every day.”

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