MIAMI — Julio Castro sat at his uncle's Miami home as President John F. Kennedy came on the television the night of Oct. 22, 1962, to tell the nation the Soviet Union was building launch sites for nuclear missiles in Cuba capable of reaching almost every city in the Western Hemisphere.
Castro had fled the Caribbean island earlier that year, and his parents and siblings were still there. He'd joined the U.S. Army in August, thinking that with the help of a superpower, he and the growing contingent of exiles in Miami could defeat the communists who had taken control nearly four years before.
Now the world was on the verge of a nuclear war. Castro stood ready for his orders, ready to do anything to secure the United States and free his family. Even kill.
Ninety miles away, his brother was prepared to do the same.
Unbeknownst to one another, Julio and Jose Castro had both enlisted in the military, the older brother with the United States, the younger with Cuba. As the U.S. and the Soviets inched closer to catastrophe half a century ago this month, one brother stood in the trenches watching Soviet troops set up outside Havana, while the other awaited orders in Miami.
Each well knows what may have happened had Kennedy heeded some advisors' call to invade Cuba.
And each knew his role.
"War is war," says Julio Castro, now 71.
If it comes down to it, his 69-year-old brother says in Spanish, "you fire at the enemy."
Growing up before the revolution, the brothers shared a close bond.
As a teenager, Julio Castro remembers enjoying the delights of Havana: He would go around the city in his red Austin Healey coupe and hit the clubs with friends. His brother imagined doing the same when he was old enough.