By ROBERT A. DEFRANK
ST. CLAIRSVILLE — State Sen. Frank Hoagland credits his military career with making him the man he is today and passing on service goals to others.
Hoagland, R-Mingo Junction, was named Veteran of the Month for the American Legion’s St. Clairsville post.
He said his earliest memories are of a military environment.
“I grew up in the army” he said.
Born in Steubenville, he transferred to an army base in Panama in first grade and returned to the United States when he was in eighth grade.
“Every day we watched this little black and white TV in Mingo Junction, and I really wanted to see my dad,” he said. “I grew up surrounded by a group of army green berets. It was pretty crazy. I know that’s what made me the person I am today.
“That’s what motivated me to want to join the army,” he said. “That’s what I knew. I wanted that.
He remembers growing up with Barry Sadler’s iconic song “The Ballad of the Green Berets” and hear stories about the Vietnam War.
Hoagland joined the United States Navy days after graduating from high school. There ambition met reality and he learned the difference between seeing and living the military life. He noted that the average class size was over 100, but only 14 original cadets in his class graduated. Hoagland remembers going through parts of practice with three broken toes on his left foot. He became a member of the sea, air and ground teams of the navy.
“My first mission was SEAL Team 4,” he said.
He is reticent about his combat experiences, but his service has taken him far.
“I’ve been to every continent in the world except Australia,” he said. “I have been involved in almost every major and minor conflict since 1985.”
He said he also gained an understanding of leadership in the military.
“Some of the best leaders I’ve ever seen come from people who have done things,” he said. “I’ll never forget the temper between a guy who’s done things and been in places, versus a guy who got the job because of the title he has, and that really made me a huge impression.”
He also remembers four SEALs killed during the 1989 invasion of Panama.
“These guys were my friends, and when it happened, there’s a lot of things going through your mind. You’ll never make peace with them. You’ll never understand it” he said, adding that he learned the lesson that just because someone has a title doesn’t mean they can’t be challenged.
“What is leadership? Who is this guy who comes and automatically they take care of you because they have the right title? And why can’t you say something about it? So if you disagree with this decision making, say something about it. That’s what I learned.
While occupying a lower rank in 1989, he then experienced leadership on the other side.
“As I got older, getting higher in the military, I’ll never forget (during the War on Terror ops) the first time I had to send my team out, I threw up in the trash can.” he said. “I know what it’s like to lose a friend and how painful it is. … When I ran my first operation, when I was the guy who called for them to leave, I was the guy who was going to have to stay back. Dude who sucked.
Hoagland said he tried to apply that attitude to his service in the Ohio Senate, not acting for his own benefit. He still remembers the first advice from another member of the service.
“The hardest thing you will do in your life is the right thing,” he said, adding that the same decision taken at the wrong time could lead to good or disastrous results.
“The decisions we make, regardless of the title, will always impact people,” said Hoagland. “Don’t let that person in the mirror become your first obstacle.”
Hoagland added that he is indebted to God and creation and values his experiences.
“It gave me a good soul. It made my soul thirsty to do the right thing, even when no one else is watching. It brought me a lot closer to God. When you saw things and made things I have done, God becomes extremely important to your life.
He recommends reading SEAL Creed.
“I don’t need credit for what I did because if it wasn’t for the guy to my left and the guy to my right and the guys behind me I wouldn’t be here today. “, he said. “We seem to forget that around the world. We have become so absorbed in ourselves that we forget the people around us.
Hoagland remains confident in the people of the United States.
“Knowing that we have strong Americans, even in this generation, no matter how clueless people think America is, I have full confidence in our young men and women today,” he said, adding that positive attitudes and values can be found in those in and out of uniform. “They prioritize the truest form of freedom, and that’s what we have today in America.”
He said the ability to be involved and change your circumstances is still a good thing about being an American.
“We can change it. We don’t live under a dictatorship.” he said. “It’s the best thing about our country. We can change it. We are the people. We own this country.