Tyler and Danny Merritt both joined the Army at the ripe old age of 18. Although Tyler pursued a lifelong dream of flying helicopters for the Special Operations community, Daniel found his place on the ground. Both brothers first deployed in 2008 for the 10th Mountain Division as Platoon Leaders in Iraq. At the time, Tyler commanded an Apache Helicopter unit while Daniel was left managing an entire province south of Baghdad. That year was an eye-opening experience for both. The brothers witnessed death, destruction, and sacrifice during their deployments, but from the chaos of war also gained a new clarity of purpose.
Tyler describes his first mission flying CAS (Close Air Support) as interesting to say the least.
“We were tasked with supporting an ODA (Special Operations Detachment) on a capture kill mission. We found a group of insurgents wearing suicide vests running towards our Blackhawks, firing machine guns at the assault force. I was able to squeeze off a few rounds of 30 mm and eliminate the threat.”
Tyler said the level of engagements and flying requirements were so great, almost every member of his command exceeded previous flying records, and they did so without complaint.
“We had a job to do, and our customers, the guys on the ground, needed us.”
Daniel had similar experiences and hardships that first deployment. He lacked the air support needed and his convoy was hit with an IED within the first few months of arriving in theater. His unit was also stretched thin, and when given an opportunity to return stateside for his mid-tour leave, Daniel decided to visit with his brother in Tikrit instead.
“I could have gone home like the rest of my unit, but at that point I thought it would be cool to surprise my little brother. I knew he was having a rough deployment so I surprised him for Thanksgiving.”
Fast forward 10 years and a half dozen deployments later.
Tyler and Danny are still passionately focused on giving back to their country, but in different ways.
In 2013, Daniel left active duty and moved to Savannah GA to start Nine Line Apparel with Tyler, who continued to serve as a Special Operations Air Mission Commander for the famed 160th Division.
From humble beginnings in Tyler’s garage, the two brothers quickly grew Nine Line Apparel into a behemoth clothing line. Their mission was to create and inspire patriotism, and as it turns out— despite what you hear in the news — patriotism is alive and well.
In the past seven years, Nine Line has grown to over 200 employees, many of whom are veterans and veteran spouses. The company’s non-profit initiatives have raised millions of dollars for veteran charities.
Nine Line has never shied away from taking a bold stance on issues of patriotism and the Second Amendment. Some of the company’s best-selling designs provide pointed (and witty) commentary on current headlines, such as their flag “swoosh” that looks an awful lot like the famous sneaker manufacturer’s logo, with the simple words “Just Stand.”
Today Tyler runs Nine Line Apparel as CEO and is actively engaged in creating a Veterans Village for homeless vets in the greater Savannah area.
“There is no greater honor than to lay down your life for your fellow man, but while we’re still on God’s green earth, why not spend your days giving back to your community and setting the example for your children to follow?”
Daniel found another calling, leaving the company in 2017 to pursue a career in politics. He is currently running as the Republican nominee for Congress in Georgia’s 1st District and hopes to continue a life of service by shaking up Washington.
Daniel is part of a greater movement to encourage the one percent of the population who have served in the military to continue giving back by draining the swamp infesting Washington.
Although Danny and Tyler don’t necessarily agree on everything, when asked what advice they have for anyone hoping to follow in their footsteps, they did agree that in a world of social media haters and naysayers, you don’t have to be.
Carve out a niche you can be proud of, find something that means more than yourself, and get going after it.