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A Disproportionate Sacrifice

"Some siblings don't have the same name, and then you also get into half siblings and step-siblings," said Staff Sgt. Christina Delai, a Marine spokeswoman. "I think that since there are so many ways to relate to someone, it would be almost impossible" to prevent them from being deployed simultaneously.

Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said families can request that a deployment be deferred. The Defense Department considers such requests on a case-by-case basis, she said, adding that she could not say how many deferments had been granted.

Henry Swann, 27, is back in Maryland with his mother, Ann, after service in Iraq, but she is awaiting the return of his two brothers. (Jahi Chikwendiu -- The Washington Post)

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Albert and Helen Velotta of Alexandria, La., will have to deal with all their sons being deployed when Brad, 27, an Army captain, goes to Iraq this summer. His brothers, Blake, 21, and Tim, 25, have been serving there with the Louisiana National Guard since October.

Helen Velotta said she would have preferred that they all left at the same time, rather than on the staggered schedule.

"There are a lot of times when we don't sleep and we just worry," she said. "Knowing that we have to start that whole thing again when Brad goes over this summer has made it very difficult."

The deployment in June of Sgts. Bryan and Ryan Swann, 24, with Andrews-based Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron came a few months after Henry's deployment with the 104th Quartermaster Company based in Annapolis.

Shortly afterward, their mother began her push to get one son returned.

In addition to writing the White House, she wrote to Wynn and Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.). Wynn sent a letter on Swann's behalf to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld asking that he "strongly consider bringing at least one of her sons home."

Swann received a four-line response on White House stationery from Heidi Marquez, director of presidential correspondence. It said: "The White House is sending your inquiry to the Defense Department. This agency has the expertise to address your concerns. They will respond directly to you, as promptly as possible."

"I've never heard another word from them," Swann said.

Henry Swann said that he and his brothers did not want to be released from duty but that he shared his mother's concern for the family. Ann Swann's mother, Mary Frances McDonald, 76, was killed during an attempted robbery at a flower shop in 2003 and her father died a few months later.

"There had already been so much tragedy in our family," Henry Swann said. "I was really worried about what would happen with my mother if something happened to me and my brothers."

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