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Military

By Army Pvt. Zach Zuber

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Deployment Reunites Brothers
(June 30, 2010)

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Spc. Joshua Wagner, a Red Bluff, Calif., native and cook from Bravo Company, 296th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, renders a salute to his brother, 2nd Lt. Justin Wagner, an executive officer for Echo Company, 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. The two were reunited at Contingency Operating Site Taji on June 18 after seventeen years apart.
June 26, 2010- Spc. Joshua Wagner, a Red Bluff, Calif., native and cook from Bravo Company, 296th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, renders a salute to his brother, 2nd Lt. Justin Wagner, an executive officer for Echo Company, 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. The two were reunited at Contingency Operating Site Taji on June 18 after seventeen years apart.
 DIYALA, Iraq (June 26, 2010) — “The best memory I had of my brother was going to the airport when he left to live with his dad when I was four,” said Spc. Joshua Wagner, a cook from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 296th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.

With his own father not around, Spc. Wagner was placed in a foster home for a year until he was able to return to his mother after saying goodbye at the airport, the two brothers lost contact. Specialist Wagner spent the years afterward in and out of foster homes and learned to adapt to the new environments in which he was placed.

While he moved, his younger brother and sister were separated and Spc. Wagner did his best to stay in contact and support them through their difficulties. This is a quality he may have gotten from his older brother, who demanded they stay together until the two were separated.
Once Spc. Wagner was on his own, he spent much of his time finding his own path during his youth. He discovered activities, like wrestling, that he enjoyed throughout middle school and high school, but he could never quite decide on what to do after graduation.

“When I got done with school, I tried the whole college thing but couldn't really stay focused,” said Spc. Wagner, a Red Bluff, Calif., native. “So I decided to join the Army because I always liked to cook and figured I could get more experience there.”

Meanwhile life for his brother, 2nd Lt. Justin Wagner, was in many ways the exact opposite. Living with his father in Pennsylvania provided a more regimented childhood filled with chores, curfews, and an emphasis on school work.

“With my dad, there were a lot more rules on what I could do, which kept me from getting in trouble like we did when we were together,” said 2nd Lt. Wagner. “It was a great childhood, but I still always missed the old lifestyle with him [Spc. Wagner].”

As he got older, 2nd Lt. Wagner wanted to help kids growing up in situations similar to what he and his brother faced. When he started college, his goal was to obtain a teaching degree, but later his focus switched to criminal justice. After he received his degree, he first worked in social services, but realized it was not what he truly wanted to do and started considering the military.

By this time the younger Wagner brother was a step ahead, working through the initial entry phase of his military career. Shortly after Spc. Wagner graduated from Advanced Individual Training, he learned that his little sister had reconnected with their older brother through MySpace, an online social-networking site.

“When my sister and then my mom started talking to him about a year ago, I got his information because I just wanted to know how he was doing,” said Spc. Wagner. “I found out that he was about to graduate from college and he wanted to know what my time in the Army was like.”

Among many topics, the two discussed Spc. Wagner's career in the Army, and whether or not it would be a good choice for his older brother.

“At first I recommended he look into the Air Force, but I told him that with a college degree, being an officer [in the Army] would be great,” said Spc. Wagner. “After a couple months he told me that he signed up, which made me really proud.”

Since his commission, a congressional appointment to an officer, the two have had plenty in common to discuss during their phone calls and e-mails. Both went to the same training base, at Fort Jackson, S.C., and they were even in the same battalion. Now they find comfort and entertainment in hearing about each other's daily duties.

“He has told me a lot about what he does, and though a lot of it is different because he's an officer, we still have a lot of things that we understand,” said Spc. Wagner. “When he graduated [Officer Candidate School], we were kind of hoping he would get stationed at [Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.] so that we would get to see each other.”

Instead, 2nd Lt. Wagner was stationed at Fort Riley, Kan., with the 1st Infantry Division. That did not dampen their spirits though, because soon after he found out he would also be deployed to Iraq.

“When I found out he was coming here, I immediately went to my leaders to see if we would be able to meet,” said Spc. Wagner. “I never thought that I would be in Iraq when that happened, but my command said they would definitely try to make it happen.”

Second Lieutenant Wagner received a warm reception to the idea as well.

“My superiors basically told me that they would do anything I needed to make sure that he could come visit me, or I could go see him,” said 2nd Lt. Wagner, executive officer for Echo Company, 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st ID. “We even set it up so that I would be able to go see him in Kuwait before his brigade goes home if he couldn't come here.”

With the approval they needed, the brothers simply had to wait for an opportunity to reunite. After working with his command, Spc. Wagner was able to pack his bags and take a flight to his brother's duty station at Contingency Operating Site Taji, June 18.

All those years separated did not change the fact that these two share an obvious bond. Both have reserved personalities but were beaming with excitement to see each other. Quickly the stories started spilling from each brother, conversations that were 17 years in the making. Those close to 2nd Lt. Wagner continually made comments about how his younger brother acted just like him. Specialist Wagner had the same outgoing personality his older brother remembers from their childhood.

“He seemed to get along with everybody he met here really well, and it showed he hasn't changed much from when we were kids,” said 2nd Lt. Wagner. “He always used to be the one that wanted to make everyone smile, and would do anything to get it done.”

It didn't take much to get a smile from the siblings as they spent two days catching up on Family, friends and work. Though it was only a short reunion, they were able to make plans for their next visit and agree to take a family vacation when they both return to the United States.

“I'm still going to try and go to Kuwait to see him again, and we'll keep up through e-mail for now,” said 2nd Lt. Wagner. “But we are also planning ahead for when we are both home because we have decided we want to take a vacation somewhere.”

Now that the two have been formally reunited, this is just the first of their plans to stick together through the years to come. Soon Spc. Wagner will have a lot more to remember than just the day his brother moved away.
Article and photo by Army Pvt. Zach Zuber
3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division
Copyright 2010

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