Deployment Reunites Brothers
(June 30, 2010)
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
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
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
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
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
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
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