I can’t believe my last update was sent out at the end of February! Fortunately I’ve had some time to take a breather and I’d like to fill you in on all the latest news. From commands changing to Battalions reuniting, there has been plenty happening lately. Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy these heartwarming experiences we’ve had over the past few months.
2/4 Change of Command
On March 6th we said our farewell to Lt. Col. Rob Weiler, who turned over command of 2/4 to Lt. Col. Mike Wilonsky. It was a sad day for me, as I’ve grown quite close to Rob and his wonderful family over the past two years. Rob and his wife Nicole actually played golf with Jim and I, although I’ve never been willing to play with anyone other than Jim. Rob and Nicole never laughed at my shots, and as a golfer you’ve got to love people like that.
Nicole put together a wonderful group of wives during 2/4’s deployment on the 31st MEU. We had bake sales, a group made stuffed seahorses for newborns, there were potlucks, play dates, and a Fitness Challenge. We all got to know each other well.
Rob will be serving as the XO for the Regiment until the family moves to new quarters in Quantico in July.
We also had the pleasure of meeting the new CO, Mike Wilonsky, and his wife Holly. I’m pleasantly surprised to find 2/4 has been blessed by another outstanding Commander. Lt. Col. Wilonsky is allowing me to remain as a Family Command Team Adviser. I’m so happy!
Wounded Warrior Trials
Jim and I were at the Wounded Warrior Trials all that week. It was such a joy to watch the Marines compete, we made quite a few new friends and caught up with old friends as well.
Believe me, it is inspirational to see young men who are overcoming physical disabilities and meeting the challenge through physical competition. Our friend Anthony took 2nd place in the Rifle competition, where the winner had a perfect score. We also attended Archery, Track and Field, Wheelchair Basketball and Sitting Volleyball competitions. We met competitors from five other countries and were privileged to take part in the Medal Ceremony for Track and Field.
It was a hectic week and I was tired the night of the Banquet but I am so glad I was there. The speaker was Kyle Maynard, a young man who was born without arms and legs and yet has just returned from climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, without prostheses. I’m so glad I didn’t miss that talk! Of course the awards were hilarious and the banter priceless.
I was able to share the meal with our friend Torren Gaul, a double amputee with a brilliant mind and a quick wit.
South County Realtors Affiliates Luau
The following evening I attended the South County Realtors Affiliates Luau in Mission Viejo. Through the generosity of their members, and some very positive leadership, we were able to collect 675 pairs of socks and quite a bit of cash for Socks for Heroes.
Kim Cosbey is a member and the wife of one of the volunteers at our Shootouts. They are both very positive, giving people and a pleasure to know. We are thankful to them both for their efforts over the years on our behalf.
Warrior Night VI
March 21st we held our sixth Warrior Night at On Target. It was our best yet!
The venue was packed with friends, competitors, and new supporters. We had several Marines stop by, and for the first time the South County Vet Center was represented. I was very busy behind the counter but I got some chat time in with almost everyone.
There was plenty of food, more than enough camaraderie and a very close competition for the prize. Craig Cosbey (Kim’s husband) won the Colt .45 Mark IV, which everyone (including me!) wanted to take home.
Padres Care Packages
March 27th I was in San Diego to help the Padres pack care packages for the Marines in Afghanistan. There were a lot of volunteers so the packing went pretty quick. A couple of the players stopped by to say hello and I ran into some of my Marine Corps buddies.
We packed toiletries, snacks, a baseball and Padres Hat, and socks (of course) in individual backpacks for the Marines. The Padres have been great supporters of the military, and they hold regular Military Appreciation Days throughout the season. We’ve distributed thousands of tickets to Marine Corps Families through their “Players Give Back” program.
I’ve learned to appreciate the game and I’m now a die hard Padres fan.
1/5 Goes Down Under
The following week 1/5 deployed to Australia, the first full Battalion on a new rotation to Camp Darwin. I think most of the goodbyes were said at home, as there were very few families on deck when the Battalion shipped out. The Marines seemed excited!
SD Chamber of Commerce Sock Drive
The next day, by invitation from our friends at Verizon, Jim spoke at the San Diego Chamber of Commerce. He gave a great talk and showed a video about Socks for Heroes. He did a great job, and the Chamber is now running a sock drive!
American Gold Star Mothers
That afternoon I was at the Pacific View Events Center on Base to hand out information on American Gold Star Mothers at the Leadership Conference. It’s surprising to me how little is known about our organization.
Gold Star Mothers was founded after WWI to support the mothers of the fallen in that war, and the moms are still active today.
Our mission is to “Remember the Fallen” and to act as advocates for veterans. Our founder discovered on her own grief journey that helping the veterans seemed to lessen her pain. The Gold Star Mothers helped me so much when Donald died that I’m more than happy to help out when I can.
The following weekend, through the generosity of the folks who put on the Ragnar Relay, we were pleased to invite two Marine Corps teams to compete in the event.
The Ragnar Relay is an overnight, 200 mile relay race from Huntington Beach to San Diego. I really didn’t know much about what we were in for when we signed up for two teams, but we soon found out.
It was like Woodstock with running gear. Ragnar had over 800 twelve man teams competing!
Our first team, Team Inchon, represented the 1st Marine Regiment and came in a very respectable 41st overall. Team Blood, Sweat and Beers, representing 11th Marines, came in 68th overall. The Marines had a great time and Jim and I had the opportunity to serve coffee at 4:30 AM at the Glider Port in La Jolla.
2/4 Ramadi Memorial and Reunion
The weekend of April 6th 2nd Battalion 4th Marines hosted a Memorial Service and Reunion to mark the 10th Anniversary of the Battle of Ramadi. This battle saw the highest casualty rate of any battle since Vietnam with 38 Marines KIA and over 250 wounded.
The Battalion worked on the event for over six months. All of the Gold Star families and veterans were invited. There was a picnic on Saturday night which was attended by 200 or so veterans and their families, as well as several Gold Star Families.
On Sunday a formal Ceremony was held at the 5th Marines Memorial Park with over 800 people in attendance. It was a remarkable event– painful and healing. I saw a lot of hugging and reminiscing while families connected, and old friends reconnected.
The 2/4 Association signed up 45 new members. It really was all that I had hoped it would be. MajGen Nicholson, Lt. Col. Weiler (who was a Company Commander in Ramadi) both gave great speeches, which can be seen on YouTube in the official video of the ceremony.
Sergeant Major Bow Retires
On the 13th we attended Sgt. Major Bow’s retirement Ceremony. We’re going to miss seeing Gary and his wife Susan at 2/4 events. Gary is looking forward to spending time with his twin boys, and finding out what civilian life is like after a distinguished career in the Corps. We promised to keep in touch, I hope we do.
We Extend Our Marine Corps Family
On the 19th I went to Florida for a week to see my sister and her family. I bicycled every day and spent every afternoon on the beach. It was nice to have some time off to relax.
I flew home by way of Gulfport Mississippi. Jim was asked by Donald’s best friend, Moises, to be the Godfather of his first son. Moises is out of the Marine Corps and starting a new life. He’s got a wonderful, large family and lucky for us they are all great cooks. We had a great time meeting everyone, especially Alexander, who is two months old and cute as a button.
The Marine Corps is truly a family!
Recreational Grant Program is Soaring
Our Recreation Grant Program is a little over 10 months old. So far we’ve given out over 150 grants to Marine Corps families, with the average participant age being 4½ years old.
The Grants offer them a way to enjoy the classes and camps the city offers at a reduced cost. I’ve handed over responsibility for the day to day paperwork to my dear friend Melissa so that I can focus on fundraising.
Our records indicate that we’ll need about $10,000/year to fund the program so I’m embarking on the quest of seeking Community Grants to supply the need. I’ve never written a grant proposal before, but thankfully I’ve got lots of help. Please let me know if you are aware of any organization that I can contact.
I’m hoping that I can set up the Recreational Grants as a stand alone so that I can move on to other projects. I’m grateful to the City of San Clemente, which agreed to help me with the initial program and the Dept. of Beaches, Parks and Recreation which has helped with record keeping and promotion of the project.
A special thanks to both organizations for making it possible for Marine Corps children to participate in programs that would otherwise be too expensive for families to afford.
It’s not terribly expensive but it brings a lot of joy to the kids, and offers mothers a bit of time to shop, go to the doctor, and enjoy some quiet time. You can donate through our website if you’d like to help.
Our next fundraiser will be held Saturday June 14th at On Target. We’ll have our usual format with a Pistol Shooting Competition, Games and a Silent Auction.
July 21st we’re also holding a Trap Shoot at Escondido Fish and Game Association. We’re excited about the Trap Shoot– it’s at a beautiful range just east of Lake Wolford. We’re looking at entertainment and a barbeque, there’s a large park on the property. Please sign up to participate and help us with our current projects: Socks for Heroes and the Family Recreation Grants. We’ll also need volunteers for both events.
I hope to see you all at some point this summer. I’m certain there will be family events throughout the fall and winter.
Proud Marine Mom
LCpl. Donald J. Hogan
KIA Afghanistan 8/26/2009
Posthumously awarded the Navy Cross
We honor our Son by serving his Brothers.