Band of Brothers

Written by Lt. Sarah Janaro

The Zylawy brothers pose for a photo during Roman Zylawy's wedding. Photo by Carrie Ann Photography. Courtesy of the Zylawy family.

The Zylawy brothers pose for a photo during Roman Zylawy’s wedding. Photo by Carrie Ann Photography. Courtesy of the Zylawy family.

Born and raised in western Montana, the three Zylawy brothers, Roman, Kenley and Wyatt have a lot in common.

“We all have a huge love of old music. I think [playing music] started from just everyone gathering around the living room or campfire playing songs,” Roman said. “No amp, no drums, no plug in required – just wood and string. I miss those times. We try to play anytime we are together.”

The brothers also serve their country.

“It’s been difficult [for them] to play together in person as they are spread out across the nation at their assigned Coast Guard stations,” their mom, Terry said. “My main wish as a mother is for my boys to find their passion and love what they do for their careers. The Coast Guard has taught them many valuable things, as well as the opportunity to see more of the world and the diversity of people.  I miss them when they are so far away, but spreading their wings and seeing what’s out there is helping to mold them to know what they want in life.”

Two of them, Kenley and Wyatt, are in different parts of Alaska and Roman is stationed in Virginia. But whenever they get the chance to get together, they make sure to take part in their favorite pastime.

The most recent time they met up was for Roman’s wedding this past June, which was the perfect time to dust off their instruments and have some fun.

“We always did everything together,” Wyatt said. “Music was no different.”

The brothers really came together musically when tragedy struck their family.

Their uncle, Portland Police Officer Mark Zylawy, died in 2008.

“I had to sit and watch as my brothers played for Mark’s memorials and I wanted to help and play with them,” Wyatt said. “That was when I started playing guitar and taking lessons to be able to play with my brothers.”

The Zylawy brothers play together during Roman Zylawy's wedding. Photo by Carrie Ann Photography. Courtesy of the Zylawy family.

The Zylawy brothers play together during Roman Zylawy’s wedding. Photo by Carrie Ann Photography. Courtesy of the Zylawy family.

The brothers were no strangers to public service before joining the military. Not only was their uncle a police officer, but their father was also a state trooper for the Montana Highway Patrol.

Fascinated by the Coast Guard’s search and rescue mission, as well as its humanitarian service, the brothers decided to join. Twins Roman and Kenley enlisted at the same time and went through boot camp together in the same company, Sierra 186, in April 2012.

“The big inspiration for joining the Coast Guard was a scene in the movie Perfect Storm when the Coast Guard Cutter Tamaroa picked up the survivors of the helicopter crash,” Roman recollected. “Years later when my twin and I were working on a sailboat in the Puget Sound, we saw the Coast Guard everywhere and thought it would be a great opportunity.”

Kenley said the Coast Guard is just what he needed when he joined.

“I have shook hands with Royal Canadian Navy sailors, climbed ancient dredges in Nome, [Alaska] walked the Battlefields of the Revolutionary War and swam in the Arctic Circle and the tropical pacific,” Kenley said. “The best part probably was saluting the wreck of the USS Arizona. It has been an adventure for sure.”

Wyatt followed his twins to boot camp a few years later.

“My inspiration for joining the Coast Guard was my two older brothers,” said the youngest Zylawy brother, Wyatt. “I was a sophomore in high school when they returned from boot camp with nothing but words of how much they had learned and became better people through it.”

Kenley said having his brothers serve in the Coast Guard with him is great because they completely understand each other’s problems and successes.

“The best part of having a brother in the Coast Guard is that we always help each other out with whatever work related problems or decisions that need to be made – from tests to what units are good and what to do during transfers,” Roman said. “And, of course, sharing sea stories.”

Being far apart from each other for their duties is tough, but they agree that they will always be there for each other.

“Family means everything to us brothers,” Wyatt said. “My best friends are my brothers and sister, my father and mother. We have each other’s back no matter what and I carry that mentality with me to my extended family, the Coast Guard.”

The Zylawy brothers pose for a photo during Roman Zylawy's wedding. Photo by Carrie Ann Photography. Courtesy of the Zylawy family.

The Zylawy brothers pose for a photo during Roman Zylawy’s wedding. Photo by Carrie Ann Photography. Courtesy of the Zylawy family.

The holiday season can sometimes be more difficult when you are away from family, but Roman said the Coast Guard is also another type of family.

“Family to me is a group of people that throughout your life have made you into who you are today.” Roman said. “When you are on a ship, the crew is your family – you depend on one another. I feel like the Coast Guard has a unique way of grooming people into better versions of themselves through adventures, learning new skills, and getting to know a broad spectrum of people from all over the U.S.”

Wyatt and Kenley have also found an extended family of Coast Guard shipmates.

“A boat always has a family, which is why I have served on boats my whole career,” said Kenley.

“We work together, learn together, and live together every day,” Wyatt said. “The Coast Guard is also the embodiment of the virtues our parents always engrained in us – work hard, respect all people, be humble and never quit. I think our parents teachings are extremely important in life but can be directly translated to the Coast Guard Core values – Honor, Respect and Devotion to Duty. I think that’s why us brothers were all so drawn to the Coast Guard.”

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