The Stangl brothers bring a whole new meaning to got your six.
For many soldiers preparing to deploy, separation from family on the home front can bring an extra hardship. But for siblings opting to share military service, like Sgt. Stephen Stangl and Pfc. Nathan Stangl, that’s not a problem. The brothers, who both serve in the Minnesota National Guard, are experiencing their first career deployment together.
When Stephen, a motor transport operator, learned his younger brother, Nathan, a helicopter mechanic, had an impending deployment, the elder brother immediately called his Readiness NCO to volunteer. Several months went by without a word. Then, two weeks before Nathan was preparing to leave his small town of Mahtomedi, Minnesota, Stephen got the call.
“He called and said it was time to go,” Stephen said. “But instead of having a few months to get everything in order, I only had a few weeks.”
Following in their parents’ footsteps
The urge to volunteer is tradition in the Stangl family. Rebecca Stangl, the mother of Stephen and Nathan, is a Navy veteran. Their father, Tom, served 21 years total — three on active duty and 18 in the Air National Guard. Cousins, uncles, and grandparents all served as well, including an older brother, Peter, who was active–duty soldier right out of high school.
After meeting in 1989, Tom deployed to Desert Shield. When he returned, he proposed and the couple began planning a wedding. Just as the invitations were sent, Rebecca’s unit was activated to deploy to Desert Storm. They called everyone invited and moved the wedding to the following day.
Tom, not wanting his fiancé to deploy alone, offered to go along on the deployment. His unit deployed immediately after the wedding, but Rebecca’s departure was delayed several times until eventually being removed from standby status.
Sending children overseas
Rebecca and Tom know there are myriad challenges awaiting them during this deployment, which includes having two sons deployed simultaneously.
“Both of us have discussed how it seems harder to send our sons than it was to send a spouse. We know that they are adult men, but we see our children. We have to let go of that and trust their training. Communication has improved incredibly since 1991 [so] that part will seem easy. The people being left at home are the ones in the dark, not knowing what is happening. I think this is true for all family members of our deployed troops,” Rebecca said.
A supportive home front
Shortly before retiring, Tom commissioned, which allowed him to swear in all three of his sons.
“I know that was a really proud moment for Dad,” Nathan said. “Not many people get that chance.”
Then, at Stephen’s recent promotion ceremony, Nathan got to promote his brother to sergeant, noting he was “the first sergeant in the Stangl family in a long time.”
Nathan is the youngest, and he recalls he and Stephen bickering the way brothers tend to do. As adults, though, he says maturity and life experience has brought them closer together. When Stephen joined the Minnesota National Guard, Nathan soon followed.
“Our relationship has improved since we have shared commonalities,” Nathan said.
Leaning on their faith
One thing the brothers know for sure is that they plan to lean on their faith to help them complete the deployment.
“The most important thing to us is staying strong in our faith and making sure we don’t lose any connection with it,” Stephen said.
Part of that will be live streaming services led by their home church, Eagle Brook, in White Bear Lake, Minnesota.
“Praying and staying faithful to God is definitely the most important thing on this deployment,” Nathan added.
The two consider miniature bibles to be part of their Army uniform and are steadfast in their Christian beliefs.
“I look up to my brother for how he’s strong in his faith, and I can only try to be that strong. It’s something I admire,” Nathan remarked.
The experience of deployment is one that many veterans struggle to articulate once they return home. However, for the Stangl brothers, they will have the added bonus of having those common experiences with each other, making the reintegration process a family affair.
“A lot of people don’t get to go on a deployment with their brother. It’ll be an experience, and we’ll see how it goes. I’ll get to know a lot of new people while serving with my brother,” Stephen said.Read comments