The winter holiday season has begun and is filled with pumpkin flavored coffees and jolly Christmas carols. This time of the year, lines of passengers at the airport and creeping freeway traffic becomes concentrated with travelers doing their best to be near their loved ones.
During a time when we make special time to enjoy our families, most do not realize that there are many who will be spending their holidays making memories with an extended military family.For a very lucky few, their loved ones are also part of their military family.Joel and Timothy Seppala, natives of Hayti, S.D. and brothers in the ultimate sense, share a bond not only as siblings but also brothers-in-arms."We had a typical big brother-little brother relationship growing up," said Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Seppala, the senior religious affairs noncommissioned officer-in-charge with the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. "That means that we did our fair share of fighting but we also had many moments where we got along great."The brothers even started a lawn mowing business together when they were 12 and 14."Since the driving age in our state is 14, Joel had his own pickup truck that we would use to haul the push mowers to our different clients' houses. We split both our earnings and expenses evenly.""The military service has made us closer," Timothy continued. "It has definitely given us a better understanding of the experiences that we have each had, both good and bad.""It has been a great honor and source of pride to serve with Tim," said Maj. Joel Seppala, a future operations planner with the 94th AAMDC. "It has brought us closer as family because we have something in common that we can talk about and bounce ideas off of each other. I have learned a lot from him as a professional Soldier, but with the confidence that I can also talk with him as a brother."Joel and Timothy both grew up to be strong young men learning about the significance of military service to their family."I remember growing up, how my mom and dad would talk about their relatives who had served in the military during WWII," said Joel."Military service was always important to our family," shares Timothy. "Both sides were active during WWII, our mother's side fighting in Europe and our father's side fighting in the Pacific. Our grandfather on my mom's side was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge and his brother was taken as a [prisoner of war] by the Nazis."Though they shared an appreciation of military service, they did not realize their desire to serve at the same point in their individual lives."Those individuals who served always seemed to have a sense of duty and commitment in spite of enormous sacrifice," explained Joel. "I admired those qualities and wanted to emulate them in my own life.""I wanted to join the military in the eighth grade. I remember contemplating which services I wanted to join. I initially drawn to the Air Force, wanting to fly fighter jets. In hindsight, I was not a good fit for that type of career."Timothy enjoyed "playing Army' like many young boys do during their childhood but his decision to enlist came many years in the future."I didn't decide to join until after my first semester of college," said Timothy. "I was working part-time at Daktronics making scoreboards, trying to keep up with classes and having an active social life when things were getting too hectic. My grades started to slip, I was accumulating debt from student loans and I decided that wasn't the direction I wanted my life to go. At that point, I decided I was going to follow in my brother into the Army."Joel and Timothy know by first-hand experience the impact of being separated from your family."It would have been nice to have been closer sometimes so our kids could have played together more regularly," said Joel."He first met my wife Katie, and son, Gabriel, when he moved here in July," shared Timothy. "I first met my youngest niece when I went to my first temporary duty trip to Okinawa in October of 2015."
"There are always times in the Army when you wish you could have family close by. We have made the best of it though."Imagine the joy and excitement the brothers felt when they discovered that they might have an opportunity to be assigned to the same mother unit and then later same headquarters located in Hawaii."I was shocked," explained Timothy. "I contacted him when I was stationed in Germany and found out that the 94th AAMDC was one of my options for assignment. Since he was already the [executive officer] for 1st Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery, at the time, I wanted to get his opinion and whether or not it would be a little awkward for him to have his brother in the same unit. He was excited and told me to take the assignment.""We were both thrilled when we found out that he was coming to the headquarters. Even though our family wishes we were on the mainland, they are also excited that we are at the same location."The Army has provided the brothers an opportunity to build up their internal family dynamics while also meeting the organization's mission."It is a great opportunity for us to reconnect with one another's family," shared Joel. "As it stands, Tim and I get together for lunch about once a week. We hope to get together as families often and make some good memories while we are here. In the military, especially with both of us serving on active duty, the time will go fast.""Neither Joel nor his family have previously had a chance to meet my wife or my youngest son," said Timothy. "This give us all a chance to get to know one another and give our kids the chance to get to know their cousins."The siblings are not letting the unique opportunity idly pass them by.
"Our plan is to make up for lost time," Timothy explained. "It is a blessing that we have gotten to be stationed together, the odds of it happening again are extremely low.