Familiar face in a distant land

Soldier brothers from St. Maries reunite in Afghanistan

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First Lt. Kyle Payne, left, and Spc. Brett Payne, who are brothers from St. Maries, recently crossed paths while serving in Afghanistan.

Kyle Payne calls it "remarkable luck."

The Army 1st lieutenant from St. Maries recently reunited with his brother, Spc. Brett Payne, while serving in Afghanistan.

"The odds are pretty crazy," Kyle said. "We started in completely different units that are stationed on opposite sides of the United States.

"I think we both felt a great deal of pride knowing that we were serving our country side by side and representing our community back in Idaho."

Kyle, 25, is attached to the 2nd Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division out of Fort Lewis, Wash., that's stationed in the Kandahar Province of southern Afghanistan.

Brett, 23, is with the 4th Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division of Fort Bragg, N.C.

"He didn't know I was coming until just before we arrived," Kyle said. "We pulled through the gate at his combat outpost, and I jumped out of our Stryker to find him waiting for me. The guys standing around couldn't believe it."

A battalion from Kyle's unit was replacing Brett's unit and Kyle hopped on a convoy that day. "I saw them drive onto our combat outpost, but I didn't know he was with them," Brett said. "I checked my email real quick and saw that he had sent me a message saying he was gonna make the trip down for the day. I walked back out and sure enough, he was standing there."

The two are University of Idaho graduates and are often mistaken for twins despite being two years apart. The two received a lot of double takes from other soldiers during the reunion.

"It was great to spend the day with him a world away from northern Idaho," Kyle said. "We were able to just sit and catch up."

It was the first time the brothers had seen each other in almost a year.

"It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience and one neither of us will ever forget," Brett said. "It's pretty strange to say I've had dinner with my brother in Afghanistan, and I'm proud to have been able to share that experience with him."

"It was a strange feeling to be on the other side of the world in a combat zone and walk around the corner to see your brother standing there. But, at the same time, it was an awesome feeling."

The brothers are only stationed 10 kilometers apart, but in a country that has thousands of American soldiers and dozens of small outposts, the chances of a reunion were slim.

"Seeing each other under these circumstances helped us feel a little closer to home," Kyle said. "In the Army you grow so close to the guys you work with that you feel like brothers, but to actually share the experience of meeting my brother in combat was awesome. I think it is an extremely rare experience that very few Americans will ever share."

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