One airman had a goal to deploy once before his career came to a close, another was scheduled to deploy in September but had to depart earlier because of a shortfall. Each was destined for this particular base in Southwest Asia.
Senior Master Sgt. Joseph Doss is a 22-year veteran deployed from the 452nd Civil Engineer Squadron at March Air Force Base, Calif. He's a traditional reservist who is getting ready to complete his military career. But he wanted to deploy at least once before that career was over.
Sergeant Doss was born in Sweetwater, Texas, but moved to California with his mother when he was only two years old after his parents separated. Known back then as Joey, he saw his father every other weekend for the next ten years only to lose contact when his dad's job transferred him back to Sweetwater.
Joey saw his dad one more time at 15, meeting some family members for the first time, including a two-year-old brother he never knew. That was the last time he had any contact with his father's side of the family.
Staff Sgt. Christopher Doss' family has always lived in Sweetwater. However, because of a complication, his mother gave birth in a Lubbock, Texas, hospital. He and his family grew up in a simple lifestyle with his older half brother and sister and his little brother always by his side.
Chris only has five years on active duty. He works as an Aero Repair specialist at Travis Air Force Base, Calif. His normal rotation was scheduled for this fall, but when another Airman couldn't fill the spot, Doss volunteered, deploying six months early.
This slight change in their normal military activities would bring a monumental shift in their lives.
On a mild February day, Senior Master Sgt. Doss and Senior Master Sgt. Dwayne Hopkins, 380th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron, were walking past the flight line dining facility when they passed another Airman with the same last name.
"Hey Doss, meet Doss," Sergeant Hopkins said. The two Doss' began quizzing each other to learn if there was a connection in their family trees.
First they discovered Staff Sgt. Christopher Doss was born in Lubbock, Texas, but grew up in Sweetwater.
The senior master sergeant exclaimed, "Oh, I have an uncle who lives in Lubbock."
"So do I," Staff Sgt. Doss said.
Senior Master Sgt. Doss hesitated before asking, "What's your dad's name?"
Staff Sgt. Doss replied, "Daniel L. Doss."
Looking over at Hopkins, Senior Master Sgt. Doss exclaimed, "You won't believe this! This is my half-brother."
"I could see the wheels turning and the lights going on in both their heads," said Sergeant Hopkins, "as they realized they were brothers meeting for the first time in the desert of all places."
Staff Sgt. Doss asked, "What... what's your first name?"
"Joseph," remarked Senior Master Sgt. Doss.
The younger Doss was mesmerized - could it be true? He recalled his parents mentioning he had an older brother named Joey. "At that moment, I was stunned. My brain couldn't comprehend what was happening here. Could this actually be my brother standing there in front of me?"
Time seemed to stand still for the two brothers as they pitched question after question to each other. However, this fortuitous meeting had to end... what seemed like an hour for the brothers was only a few minutes and duty called. They gave each other the traditional farewell - a sturdy handshake - and were off on their own missions.
Both Airmen were disoriented by the meeting and discombobulated the rest of the day. The staff sergeant anxiously called home to notify his mother in Sweetwater about the meeting. "She was just as shocked as we were." The older brother had a similar reaction ... he was trying to decide how he was going to tell his wife and family, especially his mom, how he had met Chris halfway around the world.
Still taken aback by the day's events, Staff Sgt. Doss took every opportunity to share his amazing story the rest of the day, telling those he knew how he met his brother here. The two actually emailed each other at the same time, hours later, stating they needed to get together and expand upon on that morning's conversation.
Now, one month after that momentous day, they feel as if they've known each other for years. "We just sit and talk about growing up, things we've done, and what we want to accomplish out of life," said Staff Sgt. Doss.
"It's tough to get together sometimes," said the older of the two. "Our schedules don't really match. I meet him over at Roy's [dining facility] for dinner on my day off and he comes over to the Oasis [dining facility] on his day off."
One event on both of their minds now is Chris' upcoming wedding day. "I really want my brother to be there in July if he can, but his return date isn't until after my wedding." The two are still discussing plans to get together when they return from this deployment, which shouldn't be too difficult; they both live in California, only eight hours apart.
Through emails and phone conversations, the two have discovered a lot about each other... but there's still so much to learn, and both agree, it still feels like a dream. Separated as young children, these two Airmen have been reunited by the call to duty and selfless service - they are truly "Brothers in Arms."