When Brandon Dubinsky wants to talk to his brother, Bobby, he's pretty thankful he can just send him a text to talk to him via FaceTime - but that wasn't always the case.
It isn't easy to connect to a family member when they are serving in the Air Force half way around the world.
"I remember the first time he went (overseas), everything was done through pay phone," Brandon told BlueJackets.com. "Now all those bases have WiFi and with the technology, we're able to text on a semi-regular basis. Our days are flip-flopped; my days are his nights but it's much easier to communicate. You don't have to sit by the phone and wait for a call that you don't know when it's coming and hope that you don't miss it, because you don't have a number to call back."
Those calls can still be stressful. Bobby is a mechanic for C-130 planes and has served in Iraq and Afghanistan a couple of times, most recently returning this past June.
"He's been on the phone and he'll say 'I gotta go' and I hear the alarms going off," Brandon said. "I'm wondering what is going on and he just casually says 'they're shooting grenades and RPG's over the fence in the base.' He says it so casually and I just want him to get somewhere safe."
Such are the realities of having a family member in the armed forces. Bobby, who is three years older than Brandon, enlisted with the Air Force in May 2001 after graduating high school. The family wasn't too concerned about his choice, but then, the events of Sept. 11 occurred and everything changed.
The Dubinsky family, including Bobby's wife and children, are able to take some comfort in their understanding of what Bobby does. Brandon said his brother is primarily working on transport planes that come in and out of the base. Barring any mechanical issues in a volatile area, Bobby is likely to have a bit more protection, but the family knows he's never out of harm's way.
"(Bobby's) not on the ground kicking down doors. Obviously there's a lot of guys who do that and I have a ton of admiration for what they do," Brandon said. "My family is more mindful of service members (because of Bobby); I always thank them when I see them or do something to reach out and show my appreciation having gone through it firsthand with our family."
But even with Bobby's job being what it is, Brandon and Bobby are brothers first and foremost. Brandon says when they are together, they talk about things brothers talk about - Bobby will complain about the food on bases, the two joke about teasing their little brother, and they talk about sports, including hockey.
In addition to his military job, Brandon says Bobby may actually be on the ice more than he is. He coaches a team in Alaska and plays on a few different men's league teams switching between forward and goalie. Bobby was also able to accompany Brandon to this year's World Cup of Hockey when Brandon was a member of Team USA.
"He spent the whole time with me in Toronto and was able to just be a fan. It was awesome," Brandon said. "We had a great time and during that experience when I was playing for Team USA I thought about how my brother was there, my buddy was there to hang out and support me."
And Brandon describes Bobby as a pretty good buddy to have - he describes his 6-foot-4 older brother as a gentle giant who wants everyone to be happy and have a good time.
"I'm really proud of him," Brandon said. "It's such a selfless thing to do. To put yourself in harm's way, to put your life on the line for the country, for our freedoms and allow us to do what we do and live the life that we live and have all the choices in the world.
"We can play hockey and entertain people and feel safe all the time. It's a tribute to my brother but also everybody who serves. I'm really proud of him and thankful for what he does and what all service members do."