The Seppala brothers, Joel and Timothy, grew up in small town America; Hayti, South Dakota to be exact.
They grew up in a family that had, like so many others, seen many of its relatives go off to war, especially in WWII. They remember mom and dad talking about their relatives who had served in that war. Their mom’s side of the family had all fought in Europe. Their maternal grandfather had been wounded fighting in the Battle of the Bulge and his brother was captured and held as a POW by the Germans. Their dad’s relatives had all fought in the Pacific. Now, both Joel and Timothy are themselves serving careers in the U.S. Army.
It may not be unusual that brothers and sisters in the same family would be serving in the military at the same time, but it is very unusual for them to be serving together in the same unit. In this case, it was Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Honolulu, HI.
That brings us to the Seppala brothers themselves. They each came to the decision to join the Army at different times and for different reasons. Their military lives have taken them in different directions professionally as well.
Joel had wanted to be in the military as far back as in eighth grade. In an article written for the U.S. DoD News by Army Sgt. Kimberly Menzies, Joel says, “Those individuals who served always seemed to have a sense of duty and commitment in spite of enormous sacrifice. I admired those qualities and wanted to emulate them in my own life.”
Joel’s first desire was to join the Air Force and to become a fighter jet pilot, but as he grew his mind went in a different direction. After college, Joel entered the Army as an officer.
Timothy, on the other hand, decided to join after his first semester in college. While attending college he was working at a factory making digital scoreboards for a company called Daktronics, based in South Dakota. He was working and trying to keep up with the demands of his college classes at the same time and it wasn’t panning out, so Timothy decided to join the Army as well.
After the Seppala brothers had joined the Army, they were stationed in different places around the country and the world, and did not see each other for long periods of time. But recently, that has changed. Both Joel and Timothy are presently stationed together, serving in the same unit, the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Joel is Major and is a Future Operations Planner with the 94th Air And Missile Defense Command. Timothy is a Sgt. 1st Class, Senior Religious Affairs Noncommissioned Officer-In-Charge in the same unit.
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The brothers are enjoying the opportunity to get to know each other better. They are also taking advantage of this time to meet and get to know each other’s wives. And their children are getting to know and be with their cousins and to develop those very important, life-long, generational relationships.
Family was always important to the Seppala brothers, but they are really getting the opportunity to develop and to deepen those family relationships for their own generation now. The brothers get together for lunch once or twice a week and they have come to know and appreciate each other’s different experiences. They have been able to become closer than ever before and they take great pleasure in being able to exchange ideas and to learn a lot from one another.
Those who have made careers in the military know that it is a kind of a nomadic life. The spouses and children get used to moving regularly, changing schools, and having to make new friends. It can be a difficult life for families, but it can also be a great experience, opening up the world to the children as they move around the world and the country with their military parents. I know this because I have nieces who grew up in an Air Force family. Both parents were career Air Force and they lived and raised their family in places as diverse as Germany, Panama, Georgia and North Dakota. Those nieces are happy, well-adjusted young women now who are great to be around.
For now, the Seppala brothers are taking advantage of their present situation. According to the DoD News, Timothy says, “Our plan is to make up for lost time.” They know that the odds of them ever being stationed together again are extremely low, so they and their families are taking advantage of every day they have together now.
Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.