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Hoagland named Veteran of the Month by St. Clairsville post

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — State Sen. Frank Hoagland credits his military career for forming him into the man he is today and imparting goals of service to others.

Hoagland, R-Mingo Junction, has been named Veteran of the Month for the St. Clairsville post of the American Legion.

He said his early memories are of a military environment.

“I grew up in the military,” he said.

Born in Steubenville, he was moved to a military base in Panama in the first grade and moved back to the United States when he was in eighth grade.

“Every day we’d watch this little black-and-white TV in Mingo Junction, and I really wanted to see my dad,” he said. “I grew up around a bunch 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 go into the military,” he said. “That’s what I knew. I wanted that.”

He recalls growing up with Barry Sadler’s iconic song “The Ballad of the Green Berets” and hearing Vietnam War stories.

Hoagland joined the U.S. Navy days after graduating high school. There, ambition met reality and he learned the difference between seeing and living military life. He noted the average class size was more than 100, but only 14 original cadets in his class graduated. Hoagland remembers going through some parts of training with three broken toes on his left foot. He became part of the Navy’s Sea, Air, and Land Teams.

“My first assignment was SEAL Team 4,” he said.

He is reticent about his experiences in combat, but his service took him far.

“I’ve been on every continent in the world, except for Australia,” he said. “I’ve been involved with near every major and minor conflict since 1985.”

He said he also gained an understanding of leadership in the military.

“Some of the best leadership I’ve ever seen, it comes from people that’ve done things,” he said. “I’ll never forget the temperament between a guy that’s actually done things and been places as opposed to a guy who got the position because of the title that they have, and that really made a huge impression on me.”

He also remembered four SEALs who were killed during the invasion of Panama in 1989.

“Those guys were my friends, and when that happened there’s a lot of things that go through your head. You’ll never make peace with it. You’ll never understand it,” he said, adding he learned the lesson that because someone has a title does not mean they cannot be challenged.

“What is leadership? Who is this guy that comes in and automatically they’re in charge of you because they’ve got the right title? And why can’t you say something about it? So if you don’t agree with that decision-making, say something about it. That’s what I learned.”

While he held a low rank In 1989, he later experienced leadership from the other side.

“As I grew older, as I gained more rank in the military, I’ll never forget (during operations against the War on Terror) the first time I had to send my team out, I puked in the garbage can,” he said. “I know what it’s like to lose a buddy and how painful that is. … When I ran my first operation, when I was the guy that made the call for them to go, I was the guy that was going to have to stay back. Dude that sucked.”

Hoagland said he attempted to apply that attitude to his service in the Ohio Senate, not acting for his own benefit. He still remembers early advice from a fellow service member.

“The hardest thing you will ever do in your life is the right thing,” he said, adding that the same decision made at the wrong time could lead to good or disastrous results.

“The decisions that we make, regardless of what the title is, is still going to impact people,” Hoagland said. “Don’t let that person in the mirror become your first obstacle.”

Hoagland added he is indebted to God and to creation and values his experiences.

“It gave me a good soul. It made my soul thirst for doing the right thing, even when no one else is looking. It brought me much closer to God. When you’ve seen the things and done things that I’ve done, God becomes extremely important to your life.”

He recommends reading the SEAL Creed.

“I don’t need any credit for what I’ve done, 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 across the world. We’ve become so engrossed in ourselves that we forget the people around us.”

Hoagland remains confident in the people of the United States.

“Knowing that we have solid Americans even in this generation, no matter how disarray people think that 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 uniform and out. “They prioritize the truest form of freedom, and that is what we have today in America.”

He said the opportunity to be involved and change your circumstances remains a good thing about being an American.

“We can change it. We don’t live under a dictatorship,” he said. “That’s the greatest thing about our country. We can change it. We are the people. We own this country.”

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