When Brandon Robert Pepper received his Green Beret in 2011, he became the second of John Pepper's brothers to earn the coveted cover.
But earning that token of the U.S. Army Special Forces was no easy task. Brandon Pepper didn't make the cut the first time he tried to join the elite unit.
"He wound up having to go through the entire course again," John Pepper said.
But when Brandon Pepper made it through that time, he and his family were ecstatic and proud.
"I was absolutely thrilled about it," said John Pepper. "It's not something everyone can put on their résumé."
Their brother, Staff Sgt. Derek Pepper is also in the Army Special Forces.
Staff Sgt. Brandon Pepper, 31, a native of Baltimore and most recently a York County resident, died Saturday in Afghanistan. He was 31.
His family made the trek to Dover, Del., on Tuesday to view his remains, John Pepper said.
Military life: Brandon Pepper was killed when his patrol came under attack from insurgents in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan.
It was his first deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom-Afghanistan. In 2003, he deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Brandon Pepper was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, Fort Bragg, N.C., as a communications sergeant according to the Department of Defense.
Less than a year after graduating from Kenwood High School in Baltimore in 1999, Brandon Pepper enlisted in the Army Reserves.
After basic training he was assigned to the 323rd Military Intelligence Battalion at Fort Meade, Md., where he served as an intelligence analyst and deployed in March 2003 to Iraq, according to the Army.
In 2008, Brandon Pepper entered active duty and attended Infantry Advanced Individual Training at Fort Benning, Ga. He was then assigned to the 101st Airborne Division as an infantry squad leader.
In October 2009, he graduated from the Special Forces Assessment and Selection Course at Fort Bragg. He then completed the Special Forces Qualification Course in 2011.
"He had a successful career in the military," John Pepper said.
Family: Brandon Pepper followed in the footsteps of his grandfathers when he joined the Army.
His grandfather on his mother's side served in Europe during World War II and in Japan after the war. His grandfather on his father's side also served in the Army, John Pepper said.
But there was more to Brandon Pepper than being a soldier.
He was an Eagle Scout and played on the varsity wrestling, soccer and lacrosse teams in high school, all while maintaining a high grade-point average, John Pepper said.
Brandon Pepper was also known for being a good-natured person who always seemed to smile.
"Not having a smile on his face was a rare occurrence," John Pepper said of his brother.
Awards and decorations: Staff Sgt. Brandon Robert Pepper received a number of awards and decorations during his career in the Army.
They include the Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Army Achievement Medal with one oak-leaf cluster, Army Good Conduct Medal, Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with "M" device, Non-commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon with numeral 2 device, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon with numeral 2 device and the Special Forces Tab, Expert.
- Reach Greg Gross at firstname.lastname@example.org.