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Marine Corps Recruiting Command

Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.

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Twins rejoin in boot camp after family separation

By Lance Cpl. Dorian Gardner | | November 27, 2007

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- Mom hit 15-year-old William for the last time. He packed up and moved in with his older sister. Mom never laid a hand on James - the identical twin who stuck around.

More than three years later, James and William Snyder moved back together, reunited under the rule of Marine Corps drill instructors.

As Company H recruits, the twins have so much in common - aside from their indistinguishable faces - that the DIs have a tendency to pair the two.

"We always choose them for recruit missions when we need two (people) because they think so much alike," said Staff Sgt. Cory S. Taylor, Company H drill instructor, Platoon 2046.

Before boot camp, things weren't much different. The two grew up together in a small house with their mother, Nynetta Steelman, and sister in Richland, Wash. Their father left the boys as babies.

The brothers' older sister, Amber Snyder, split to nearby Kennewick, Wash., when she was 17 because her mother abused her. In her daughter's absence, Nynetta released her frustrations on William, the twins said. Though she abused William, she never raised a hand toward James.

"Our mother was a small lady, so the hitting was more annoying than painful, but she did like to throw things," said William, looking to his brother who agreed.

The father was gone and Nynetta needed attention. "We never grew attached (to her suitors) because there wasn't enough time to," said William.

Said James: "Our mother didn't like work, so she thought if she found somebody rich, she wouldn't have to work."

When things were good, the boys would be all right living with their mom's new boyfriend, but when it was bad, they went from rich to poor in a matter of days.

"We were pretty poor growing up so we learned to appreciate things," said William. "One of our mother's ex-boyfriends used to work at a food store and the store overstocked on this cereal. He brought it home and that was all we ate, breakfast, lunch and dinner, for six months.

"When we heard that boot camp served three square meals, we thought, 'Lets go.'"

The twins suspect their mother suffers from bi-polar disorder. "Happy one second, crazy the next," said William.

When William was 15, he decided it would be better if he moved out, so he moved in with his sister at her apartment. For the first time in their lives, the twins would not be sharing a room.

The two still went to the same high school, but with just a few minutes in between classes, they didn't see each other much during the day.

"We both had different schedules, different rides home," said James. "Our relationship was over the telephone."

"Mainly it turned from brothers to hanging out," said William. "Friends," James added quickly.

Even though they were separated, they still had the weekends.

"We used to get the same game on PlayStation 2 because we didn't have the Internet," said William. "We would buy the same game and race each other to the end of the same level."

During James' senior year, he joined the Marine Corps and soon after told his brother, "Hey Will, I just signed up."

"Okay, I'll be up there tomorrow," said William.

As children, the twins used to play soldiers in their 10-acre backyard. It was filled with trees and bushes, and they imagined themselves in Vietnam on a patrol, looking for the enemy.

"When we were young, we used to watch all those Marine movies, play the games," said William. "That was when we decided to join the Marine Corps."

After three years of separation, they found themselves back under the same roof for the first time at boot camp.

"It was cool," said James. "Everyone was scared and confused. Me and Will used to stay up at night and tell stories about things that happened."

The twins were a unique test for the drill instructors.

"It was difficult because every time we would correct one Snyder, the other Snyder would move," said Taylor. "We had to make sure that they were always separated in the platoon during drill because the same thing would happen."

They came to the Corps together, and James enlisted open-contract to ship off with William on the same day. The Marine Corps brought them together, and graduating today as privates, the Snyder twins said they hope to keep together on their journeys.

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