Daniel and Stephen Ray – Dependability, Loyalty, and Respect Describe the Intense, Unbreakable Bond Between Brothers.

by | Jan 2023

BRO, BUDDY, sidekick, comrade, sibling, big brother, and kidbrother— whatever you may call them, you can’t deny the unbreakable bond between brothers Daniel and Stephen Ray. A seven-year age difference between the two, they have spent the entirety of their lives working together to keep the family unit, that includes their sister, Andrea, together and strong. A bond such as theirs includes dependability, love, and grace.

UNCERTAIN TIMES

For Daniel, being a brother has always meant setting a good example and being a pillar of support for his siblings.

“I have tried to set a good example,” he said. “It doesn’t always mean that they will follow in my footsteps. I want to be there when they make life-altering decisions for themselves. I want to support them and their decisions, and if I don’t like their decision, I support them in making the right decision.”

Daniel personified this quality by taking on the role of head of household when his parents divorced during his junior year of high school. Left with the urgency to keep the home going, he would leave school to take on a fulltime job.

Photographed by Ashleigh Newnes.

“Whenever our mother and father divorced, both of our parents had issues they were dealing with,” he said. “However, we still had to eat, the electricity needed to stay on, and the house still had to function. I left school and got a full-time job to support our family.”

A few years later, Daniel decided to join the military.

“I decided to join the Army and left my checkbook at home,” he said. “Stephen would write checks to pay the bills. We did that for a few years.”

The second oldest, Stephen, was around 11 when Daniel left for the Army. He made sure that all of the bills got paid and stepped into the role of head of household.

For Stephen, being a brother has always meant acting as a rock for his siblings.

Photographed by Ashleigh Newnes.

“You want to be something that is never changing,” he explained. “You want to be that rock on which they will always be able to depend. I think, for me especially, that dependability is a big thing. It’s something that I’ve always tried to do. I have always tried to be dependable for Andrea and Daniel.”

Daniel’s time away was a challenge for the siblings, but their bond and love for each other helped them see the other side of some challenging times.

“We wrote letters back and forth to let each other know everything was ok and being taken care of,” said Stephen. “It was hard, but we had faith that it would all work out. And it did. We had a rocky upbringing, but I wouldn’t change a second of it. You get to where you’re at and appreciate where you came from. You can’t change where you came from or what happened, but you can change the perspective of the here and now.”

BEATING THE ODDS

While they endured a rocky childhood, the brothers worked diligently to support each other and their sister. They have been there to help each other beat the odds and make successful strides in life.

Today, Daniel works for the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department and supervises the county’s school resource officers. He was named Officer of the Year by the Tennessee Training Officers Association.

Stephen works in Information Technology for the Coffee County School System and is a local minister. He is a semi-retired professional cyclist, something he took up after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Stephen is also a motivational speaker. He speaks to students about his struggles and battle with MS and how he overcame them thanks to faith and support from his siblings.

Each holds immense pride for the other, most of which cannot be expressed without tears.

“We lean on each other equally. We have tremendous respect for each other,” said Daniel.

COMING FULL CIRCLE

One of the perks of both Stephen and Daniel’s jobs is that they can work alongside each other through the school system. They can also see how the support from teachers helped them get through those times as children. Both are now working to be that support system given to them as children.

“One of Daniel’s former teachers hired me,” Stephen explained. “He was well aware of our family situation growing up and took a chance on me. You still come across teachers that were your teachers, and it’s hard because they even hold back tears. The odds were against us, and for them to tell us how proud they are of us, it does feel like we’ve come full circle. We were just kids going through Hillsboro Elementary, and now we’re walking in there, and we’re no longer the kids with the uncertain future. We made it.”

Now with their own families, the siblings work hard to stay as close as they have always been. They hope their children share the same bond as they do as siblings.

Stephen said at the end of the day, love is about action.

“It’s more than just opening your mouth and saying words,” he said. “Talk is cheap, and you’ve got to stand up and prove your love. When dealing with family, it isn’t about proving your love once but every day. Love is being dependable and something certain. Being a preacher, I turn to scripture. Paul told the Corinthians: In the end, there are three things, and love is what will abide forever. No matter how mad we are at each other, our love is still there, along with our care and compassion.” GN

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