Brownstown teacher writes book about Hunter “H.D.” Hogan


Arriving home a few weeks ago, Pat Sovern saw a box near her front door.

She couldn’t contain her excitement.

“My neighbor was just pulling up and I was screaming and yelling, ‘It’s here, it’s here,’ and she’s like, ‘What?’ and I said, ‘The box is here,’” Sovern said.

[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]

Click here to purchase photos from this gallery

Inside were the paperback copies of the first book she has written, “My Boy is Home.”

“I ripped open the package and pulled one out and was like, ‘Oh my gosh! Wow! This is what I imagined,’” she said.

The book shares the story of Hunter “H.D” Hogan of Norman. He started with rodeo at a young age and despite several mishaps and injuries became a bull and bronc riding champion. He was awarded four full-ride scholarships for college but chose to serve his country just like his father, Steve.

On June 23, 2012, on what was supposed to be his last mission, H.D., a lance corporal with the U.S. Marine Corps, was killed in action in Helmand Province in Afghanistan. He was 21.

After three and a half years of working on the book, Sovern, 55, finally was able to hold a copy in her hands. She immediately sent copies to H.D.’s wife, Brittney, and father. Steve had given her approval to write the book and helped her ensure the story was accurate, and Brittney also had looked over the parts that involved her.

Sovern said the book is a tribute to H.D.

“When I started this whole thing, it was never about what I’m going to make. It was never about money because I don’t really care about that,” she said.

“It was all about honoring him because I felt like knowing them so well, being so close, that I did my part, contributed to the foundation (in H.D.’s name) and went to the funeral, but I always felt like it wasn’t enough, I could do more,” she said. “Now, it’s like I want his memory to live on forever, so I feel like if it’s in a book, it’s there forever.”

Sovern was born in Heilbronn, Germany, and grew up as an Army brat with her father being a drill sergeant and later wound up in Brownstown.

After graduating from Brownstown Central High School in 1980, she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from Indiana University.

She then returned to Brownstown and worked in the elementary school for 12 years and was transferred to the middle school to work with special needs students in their language arts classes.

She married and raised her two daughters in Norman, which is where she met the Hogans, who were neighbors.

Steve shared a lot of stories about his son’s rodeo involvement, and Sovern went to watch H.D. at several rodeos.

“I just remember when he walked in, he just had this huge smile. He would light up a room,” Sovern said of H.D. “I think everybody that connected with him or knew him just loved him immediately because he was like one of those kids that just glowed. He just had such a presence, even young.”

After graduating from Brownstown Central High School in 2009, H.D. joined the U.S. Marine Corps. While attending boot camp in California, he met Brittney, and they were married two months later.

A year later, the couple were planning to have their first child, and H.D. was deployed to Afghanistan. The morning after he deployed, Brittney woke up experiencing terrible pain, and her sister rushed her to a hospital. She wound up having a miscarriage and had to share the news with H.D.

Five months later, Brittney received news about H.D. being killed in action. He just had a few weeks left to go in Afghanistan and three more months of active duty.

Steve said he had been looking for a home for H.D. and Brittney, and H.D. planned on working for his father and getting back into rodeo.

After H.D.’s death, Steve continued to share stories about his son.

“It would be story after story. I would laugh, and we would cry, and they were so good,” Sovern said. “It was just things that happened to him in the rodeo, just these entertaining things or some of the things he would say that you would just crack up because you have to know him. He was such a character. Then he told me about what happened at boot camp.”

As the stories added up, Sovern said she realized they could be shared in a book.

“I remembered a lot of the stories he was telling me,” she said. “I was just thinking about it, and then it just kept nagging on me, ‘You need to write this book.’ I almost believe that it was H.D. above wanting his story told.”

She kept putting it off, though, because she had never written a book.

“I’m an avid reader. I’ve read probably I would say thousands of books in my lifetime, so I’ve read a lot,” she said. “After awhile, as the years went on, I thought, ‘I could write a book. I could do this,’ but I never could think of something to write about. There was never anything I was passionate about or I thought, ‘Oh, this is a great idea.’”

The talks with Steve, however, turned her thoughts around. Plus, she had followed H.D.’s rodeo career and watched him compete, knew about his service in the military and went to his funeral.

“Finally, I just said, ‘OK, I’m going to do it,’” she said. “I just finally called Steve and said, ‘Has anybody offered to write a book on Hunter?’ and he said, ‘No,’ and I said, ‘Well, I want to do it.’”

Sovern said Steve’s silence threw her off-guard, and she offered to give him time to think about it.

“He said, ‘Yeah, I want to do this,’” Sovern said. “He’s exposing his life, his son and everything that happened, the good and the bad, putting it out for the public eye. I guess because we’ve known each other for a long time, he felt comfortable with me doing this, that he was OK with it.”

In February 2015, she created an outline of the book and then started writing.

“I decided to start the book when Steve had packed up and left Jackson County and went to Nebraska,” Sovern said. “It starts at that chapter and then flashes back to when H.D. is 5 years old.”

After each chapter was written, she shared it with Steve to review.

“He was along with every step of the way,” she said. “I would get a chapter done, I would come up with some more questions and was ready to move on to the next chapter.”

Around March of this year, the book was officially completed.

“It was a great feeling,” Sovern said. “It was kind of one of those things like, ‘OK, I’m done. Now, I want to share it. I want to get this out there.’”

She initially tried the traditional publishing route, sending nearly 50 query letters to different agents, but she received several denials.

Then recently, Sovern came across Amazon’s CreateSpace, which allows a person to do self-publishing online at no charge. Steve also suggested she talk to Melissa Jarboe, whose husband was killed in the Army and she wrote a book called “Sacrifice.” Sovern learned Jarboe used CreateSpace and had sold 600,000 copies of her book.

All Sovern had to do was download PDFs of the pages of her book into a template and check the formatting to make sure everything lined up.

She also had to download the illustration for the book cover that was drawn by Nick Walden of Medora. Sovern had taken a picture of H.D.’s dog, Hank, with his rodeo boots on one side and combat boots on the other and shared that with Walden to draw.

“The whole process of it, I’m very impressed of how simple it was,” Sovern said. “That part was actually easier than I thought it would be.”

Once it was approved, the book was available for purchase online or download onto an Amazon Kindle. She also plans to order more paperback copies and do book signings and promotions.

The back part of the book includes a poem called “My Boy is Home” by Echo Sharkey. A text message with those same words was sent out by Steve when he went to Dover, Delaware, to receive H.D.’s body. Sharkey and Sovern were among the recipients of that message.

“When she wrote the poem, I said, ‘I love that,’ and I knew why she wrote that, and I said, ‘I want to use the same title for the book,’” Sovern said. “I couldn’t think of a better title than that.”

The last nine pages of the book contain 24 pictures of H.D., from his younger days to when he was involved in the rodeo and military.

“It’s a celebration of his life,” Sovern said of the book. “To understand a little more about him if you didn’t know a lot about him, to know what kind of person he was and just the service to the military and what they go through, it’s so detailed in there. You’ll be astounded by the details I go into. The details I go into are very specific, and it puts you right there in the action.”

Sovern now has a couple of ideas in mind for her next book and possibly other projects.

“I’m thinking, ‘OK, what else can I do?’ because now that I know how to do this, it’s like, ‘Well, this wasn’t as difficult as I thought,’” she said.

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”Sovern file” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

Name: Pat Sovern

Age: 55

Hometown: Born in Heilbronn, Germany, and later moved to Brownstown

Residence: Brownstown

Education: Brownstown Central High School (1980); Indiana University (bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education)

Occupation: Special education teacher at Brownstown Central Middle School

Family: Daughters, Amanda (Dylan) Michaels and Christina (Chris) Mathisen; grandsons, Tyler, Jack and Beckett Mathisen

[sc:pullout-text-end][sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”On the Web” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

Pat Sovern’s book “My Boy is Home” is available for purchase in paperback or Amazon Kindle download at


No posts to display