JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq -- They were always clearly identifiable, the older sibling and his kid brother, and though they traveled down separate roads to Iraq, they stand as a sound example of the eternal bond generated during childhood that survives and prospers.
The Stoddard brothers, 20-year-old Zac and 23-year-old Daniel, share not only the distinction of their ancestry, but they are also members of the same unit -- Company Foxtrot, 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment, 77th Sustainment Brigade, 310th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, stationed at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.
They are also a study in contrasts.
Zac, a private first class, and Daniel, a sergeant, traveled to Iraq with F Company down different paths. Daniel is quiet, laid back and exudes the attitude of a two-tour veteran. Zac, on his first tour in Iraq, is more outgoing.
They grew up together until Daniel left at the age of 12 to live with their father. Zac stayed behind with his mom.
While their father and, by extension, Daniel stayed rooted to Touchet, Zac said he and his mom moved around, eventually settling in Denver.
They are in different platoons within F Company and perform different jobs connected to their individual rank. Daniel is a truck commander within 2nd Platoon's 2nd Convoy Escort Team, while Zac is a driver in 1st Platoon.
Daniel, who now lives in Milton-Freewater, said he takes a low-key approach to the fact he and his kid brother are in the same company. Yet, he said he enjoys the fact his brother is nearby.
"I like it, it is a good way to keep track of him," Daniel said. He said that he does not worry about how his brother will do in his CET.
"They have good non-commissioned officers in Zac's platoon," Daniel said. "I know they take good care of him. It makes my dad feel safer to have him with me."
He added that there are definitely advantages to the fact that he and his brother are in the same unit.
"It is not bad," Zac said. "When I get flustered, I go over to his (containerized housing unit) and he helps me out."
Daniel said he listens to his brother and often dispenses advice, something he said he is happy to do. Zac agreed he benefits from his brother's guidance.
"I get wound up easier than he does," Zac said. "He is more calm and collected. It is comforting to know I can confide in my own brother."
"He was always a hot-head as a kid," Daniel said with a smile.
Danel is light-years ahead of his little brother in terms of experience in a combat zone. Daniel said he first came to Iraq in 2007 when Oregon's 234th Engineer Battalion was mobilized for overseas duty. When the 234th's tour ended, Daniel elected to extend with the 39th Brigade Combat Team from Arkansas.
His tour with the Razorbacks was cut short when he was involved in a humvee accident and broke his foot.
After spending a year on medical hold, Daniel recovered enough to sign on for another deployment, this time with the 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment.
Daniel, who was stationed at JBB with the 234th Engineer Battalion in 2007, said he has watched Iraq change during his three deployments.
The current focus is on allowing the Iraqi Army and police to take the lead role. The two brothers share not only a common heritage, but a common goal to achieve success in Iraq.
Yet, they both talk easily about how they performed as brothers when they were children. Daniel admitted he often did mischievous things to his little brother.
"I've always been bigger than him and when we were younger, I exploited that," he said. "I used to pick on him a lot. One time I told him he had diabetes."
Zac said he came to the military almost in spite of his brother. "I was always the family rebel," he said. "I thought of it as being different than him."
Yet, when he said his life was going down "the wrong road," it was his brother whom he looked to.
"At first I thought I'd join the military because I didn't have a future planned," Zac said.
His decision to join the Army and follow in his brother's footsteps proved to be a good one, he said.
"I've got a lot more discipline since I came here," Zac said. Daniel added that he is proud of his brother.
"It makes me feel good; he wants to do what I'm doing," Daniel said.