We talked to the ultimate military mom and wife about the rough year ahead.
Ronda Kaysen: Bonnie Hoagland has a year of worry ahead of her. Her husband and two
of her sons will be deployed to Afghanistan in early January. A third
son will be deployed there in March, and her fourth son, Chad, is back
home in South Carolina recovering from injuries he sustained during his
tour in Afghanistan.
Momlogic talked to Bonnie about what it's like to have your husband and so many children in harm's way at the same time.
ML: Your husband, Chris Hoagland, and two of your sons, Bradley Moss and Justin Moss, are all serving in the same National Guard unit. They've been in Ft. McCoy, Wisconsin, for two months preparing to head off to Afghanistan. What was it like the day they left?
BH: I can't really express the emotions you have when you're being left alone again, whether it be from your husband or your sons having to leave. It's really hard on families. It's just a feeling of emptiness, of here we go again, of the unknown of what's to be in the next year or so.
ML: Your son Clayton Moss is an Army Ranger and is currently in Ft. Benning, Georgia, awaiting deployment to Afghanistan. He can't speak as freely about where he is or what he's doing. What is it like knowing so little about his whereabouts?
BH: When he went to Iraq, we didn't know where he was. I didn't like that. He'll call and I'll ask him, "How're you doing today?" and he won't say anything. They're pretty secretive about what they do and where they go. He could just call me tomorrow and say "I'll see you later." When he says that, he's telling me that I may not hear from him for a month. That's the hard part about Clayton, you just don't have any timelines.
ML: How did you end up with a husband and four sons in the military?
BH: I met my husband and he was in the military. I don't believe he pulled them into it, but I do believe he had an influence.
ML: Chris is your children's stepfather. When did you and Chris get married?
BH: I married him on February 5, 2003, five days before he left for Iraq. We have never spent an anniversary together. We never had a honeymoon. None of my sons did either. We're hoping that when they get home we can bundle up and have a family honeymoon.
ML: Have you ever served in the military?
BH: The only thing I've ever served is dinner and orders. And most of the time they don't abide by them either.
ML: Your daughter, Rachel Moss, is 16. What would you tell her if she wanted to enlist?
BH: I would support her, but I'm kind of trying to lean her in another direction. I've given about all I can give. I just don't know that I could go and support her. I could, if I have to support her, but with my sons and my husband, I've done about all I can do. It's hard. I'm ready to get them home.
ML: You helped raise nearly $40,000 to help bring as many as 190 soldiers home for the holidays. Why all the effort?
BH: Normally you pay for your own way home. But these soldiers are getting ready to serve in the most dangerous place in the world. [The military] can fly them everywhere else, but they won't fly them home. Bring these soldiers home to be with their families for what could possibly be their last time.
ML: With everyone home for Christmas, what are you going to do?
BH: Now that everyone's starting to have their own families, they all go off. But hopefully everyone spends some time together.
ML: Your husband and two of your sons will be in Afghanistan until the end of 2010. Is it true that your husband won't be coming back even for a two-week leave?
BH: Yes. My husband is just going to wait until the end of the tour to come home. We decided that we were just going to stick it out and be gone the whole year. [When he came back for a two-week leave during his tour in Iraq in 2003], it was just so hard. I felt emotionally drained from him leaving, coming home, and then turning him around and sending him back, knowing what was going on there. It's very, very emotional.
ML: Your son Bradley got married two days before he left for Wisconsin. He just found out his wife is pregnant. Will he be able to come home for the birth of the baby?
BH: It's not absolutely certain that he'll be able to come home.
ML: How has it been since they left?
BH: It's hard. It's only been two months, and it's a struggle. It's a hard struggle to sit and wait for them to call you because you really can't call them. You really have to sit and wait on their time and that's hard, that's real hard.
ML: Any tips for good ways to keep in touch?
BH: If you're lucky enough to have computers with webcams, that's great. [Chris] purchased a laptop before he left. We're trying to get another one at home where we'll be able to communicate with a webcam when he's gone. At least you can see him and keep in contact.
ML: What's the hardest part for you?
BH: When you're home watching the news, as soon as something flashes up about Afghanistan, that 40 soldiers were killed, your first instinct is to think, "Is it mine? Is it our unit?" When I say mine, I mean all of our soldiers in this unit because each and every one of them, they are your family. Everybody in this unit is your family. Not only do I have five to worry about, I have 105, 120 that are my family.
ML: You've been through this before. Your husband and three of your sons have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan once before. How do you cope with the worry?
BH: You just try to rely a lot on keeping with the family that's still here. You try to keep with them as much as possible. You try to keep yourself busy. You try not to dwell on what you see on the news or television because you can get into a depression. You try to stay focused on things so you don't worry too much about what could happen.
ML: Your son Chad was injured by an IED during his 2006 and 2007 tour in Afghanistan. How is he doing now?
BH: He has a lot of back problems. He luckily, thank goodness, has all his limbs. He's able to function in everyday life. But he still has a lot of pain.ML: How is your daughter Rachel dealing with having so many family members in harm's way?
BH: I believe it's hard on her. All of her male figures are gone for a while. She misses her brothers. She gets real emotional. Things that happen, she takes to heart. I'm an adult and I can wing it, but when you're 16 years old, it's a hard thing to do.
ML: What do you want to do when everyone's back together again?
BH: We're country folk, we have lots and lots of cookouts. We get everybody together. We enjoy things like that. But me personally, I'm just looking forward to having mine by myself for a while.
|Ronda Kaysen is a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, BusinessWeek.com, Architectural Record, Huffington Post, New York Observer and AM New York. She lives in Brooklyn with her family.|