By 2nd Lt. Russell P. Galeti, Jr.
Ohio Army National Guard
FORT LEWIS, Wash. - Soldiers of the Ohio Army National Guard frequently comment that leaving their families is one of the hardest parts of a lengthy deployment. But for seven infantrymen in Company B, 1st Battalion, 145th Armored Regiment, who deployed in November 2008 to conduct the Multi-National Force and Observers mission in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, that's not a problem. Pfcs. William and Daniel Butler; Spcs. Dan and Chris Serpico, and their older brother, Sgt. Greg Serpico, give Company B what would be referred to in poker as a full house-one pair and three of a kind.
The Serpico Soldiers are three of six children-all boys-and graduates of Riverside High School in Painesville, Ohio. When they were mobilized, all were in college. While Greg studied criminology at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Dan and Chris attended Kent State University in Kent, where Dan studied exercise science and Chris was undecided.
Greg, the oldest of the trio at 26, first joined Battery F, 1st Battalion, 134th Field Artillery Regiment, in 2002 and soon after deployed to provide force protection for Aviano Air Base in Italy. He remained at the Woods King Armory in Cleveland through the unit's transformation and reclassified as an infantryman when Company B was activated in 2007. Dan and Chris enlisted in Company B in 2005, both as infantrymen. While Greg said he first joined the Ohio National Guard for the educational benefits, Dan, 23, and Chris, 21, both became interested by Greg's experiences in Italy and surrounding countries.
"I wanted to join for the educational benefits," Dan said. "But hearing Greg's stories about his trip to Italy sounded pretty nice, also."
Of the Serpicos' three civilian brothers, 17-year-old Matthew has also been talking about joining the Ohio National Guard. However, none of the infantrymen admitted they would be willing to split the $2,000 Guard Recruiting Assistance Program bonus if they were to receive credit for his enlistment. Nick, at 13, is too young to enlist, but said "he thinks it's cool, what we do," Dan said. Patrick, 25, is studying photography at The Ohio State University.
Chris says the three enlisted brothers get along very well despite the close proximity of serving together in an infantry company.
"We always get confused when somebody calls out our last name, and when one of us gets in trouble, there's always this assumption of guilt that extends to the other two," Chris said. The boys' mother, Peggy Serpico, said raising six boys leads to a very hectic and busy household but finds a benefit in her sons' service that's not as tangible as college tuition. Since the three have enlisted, she thinks the relationships they share have improved.
"The three that are in the military are much closer than they once were," she said. "Greg was much older than the other two, so by the time they got to the age where they got to do stuff together, Gregory was gone. So they are now much closer than they ever were before."
Pfcs. William and Daniel Butler of Ravenna, Ohio, also take the phrase brothers-in-arms literally. William, 24, and Daniel, 21, aren't twins, but are hard to tell apart and each have identical four-leaf clovers tattooed on opposite sides of their necks, symbolic of their brotherhood and making it easier to tell which brother is which. The Butlers are both graduates of Ravenna's Southeast High School and both joined the Ohio Army National Guard in November 2007.
Unlike the Serpico brothers' large, bustling family, the Butlers grew up in a much smaller family environment, relying on grandparents as much as they relied on each other. Their father died when William was 10 and Daniel was 7.
"Our grandparents raised us," William said. "I wanted to make a better future for both of us and I begged Dan for a couple years to go, and finally one night he said he'd do it. A lot of dead-end jobs led us to here. Roofing, construction, and stuff like that, but we always worked together."
The Butler brothers are easily mistaken for each other because of their similar looks, and the drill sergeants capitalized upon that fact when the brothers were in adjacent platoons for Infantryman One Station Unit Training at Fort Benning, Ga.
"Our drill sergeants would make us write each other in basic training. One of us would have to write a letter to the other one in a different platoon, mail it, get it in the mail and then read it in front of the company," Daniel said. "We would switch platoons and they wouldn't know. Drill sergeants would switch us to mess with other drill sergeants, too."
Much like the Serpicos, the Butler brothers also see more advantages than disadvantages to serving in such close proximity to each other.
"You always have family right there," Daniel said. "We know what other people are going through without their family there, so it helps us to help them more. It's probably harder on them not having anybody else there for them."
Although they serve together in the same company, the Serpico and Butler brothers are scattered across different platoons, mainly to avoid confusion. Despite the tragic circumstances of some of the most famous stories of siblings serving together-such as the five Sullivan brothers who died during the sinking of the USS Juneau at Guadalcanal, and two of the four Niland brothers who died in Normandy, France, inspiring the 1998 film Saving Private Ryan-military regulations are not as strict as some may assume and do not prohibit close family members from voluntarily serving together in the same unit, ship or aircraft.
The 1-145th Armored Regiment is scheduled to return home in late 2009.