By Sgt. Kimberly Menzies, 94th Army Air and Missile Defense CommandNovember 21, 2016
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- Joel and Timothy Seppala, natives of Hayti, South Dakota, share a bond not only as siblings but also as brothers-in-arms.
"We had a typical big brother-little brother relationship growing up," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Seppala, the senior religious affairs noncommissioned officer-in-charge with the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command here. "That means that we did our fair share of fighting, but we also had many moments where we got along great."
"The military service has made us closer," Timothy said, referring to his brother, Army Maj. Joel Seppala. "It has definitely given us a better understanding of the experiences that we have each had -- both good and bad."
A CLOSE RELATIONSHIP
"It has been a great honor and source of pride to serve with Tim," said Joel, 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 said their family has a history of military service.
"I remember growing up, how my mom and dad would talk about their relatives who had served in the military during World War II," Joel said.
"Military service was always important to our family," Timothy added. "Both sides were active during World War II, 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."
JOINING THE ARMY
"Those individuals who served always seemed to have a sense of duty and commitment in spite of enormous sacrifice," Joel said. "I admired those qualities and wanted to emulate them in my own life."
He continued, "I wanted to join the military in the eighth grade. I remember contemplating which services I wanted to join. I was 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 said when he was growing up he enjoyed playing Army like many young boys do, but his own decision to enlist came many years later.
"I didn't decide to join until after my first semester of college," Timothy remembered. "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 my brother into the Army."
Over the years, the two brothers said, they have gained a firsthand understanding of family separation.
"It would have been nice to have been closer sometimes, so our kids could have played together more regularly," Joel said.
"He first met my wife Katie, and son, Gabriel, when he moved here in July," shared Timothy said of Joel. "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," Timothy added. "We have made the best of it, though."
The brothers were overjoyed when they learned they might be assigned together in Hawaii.
"I was shocked," Timothy said. "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."
"It is a great opportunity for us to reconnect with one another's family," Joel said. "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."
Timothy added, "Neither Joel nor his family have previously had a chance to meet my wife or my youngest son. This [assignment] gives 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 pass them by.
"Our plan is to make up for lost time," Timothy said. "It is a blessing that we have gotten to be stationed together. The odds of it happening again are extremely low."