The final challenge for any Marine Corps recruit is known as The Crucible.
The mentally and physically demanding 54-hour event, which includes food and sleep deprivation while traveling 48 miles on foot, comes at the end of 11 weeks of boot camp. It’s followed by a graduation ceremony.
In 2009, Hunter “H.D.” Hogan of Norman attended his Marine Corps graduation ceremony on crutches because he had torn his ACL and two MCLs on the first day of The Crucible. Despite those injuries, Hogan pushed through the pain and made it to the end.
That display shows the toughness Hogan possessed throughout his life before he was killed in action June 23, 2012, in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
On Sunday, Hogan’s sacrifice was recognized on a stop during the 11th annual Indiana Patriot Guard Ride to Remember.
The ride was started in 2011 by a couple of men from the Ripley County area to remember the servicemen from southeastern Indiana who have died in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001.
Since 2013, the 300-plus-mile, two-day event has always made its way to Brownstown to remember Hogan.
Veteran Tim Kieffer of Batesville and Ed Schmidt of Napoleon organized the first ride for the southeastern part of the state in 2011.
During Sunday’s ceremony in front of the Jackson County War Memorial on the courthouse lawn, Kieffer talked about Hogan, who grew up in the Clearspring area and graduated from Brownstown Central High School in 2009.
Hogan was serving with the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force at the time of his death.
The 21-year-old was buried in Nebraska, where his father lived at the time. A funeral service was held in Brownstown, and the town council later named Walnut Street Hunter “H.D.” Hogan Memorial Way in his memory.
Kieffer said Hogan was proud of the Marine Corps and believed it to be second to none.
“He was loyal to his comrades and to the corps, adhering always to its motto, ‘Semper Fidelis’ (always faithful),” Kieffer said. “H.D’s personal side was all about as he said, ‘The three F’s: Family, friends and with the emphasis on fun.'”
Hogan lived his life at 100 mph, whether it be his passion for rodeo and bucking horses, hunting and fishing or with his time in the Marine Corps, Kieffer said.
“His love of the sport (of rodeo) eventually led to several full-ride scholarship offers,” Kieffer said. “H.D. put all of that on hold in order to fulfill his dream. He wanted to serve his country like his dad, who also served in the Marine Corps.”
Hogan joined the Marine Corps in October 2009.
“Always the littlest guy, standing at 5-foot-7 and weighing 130 pounds,” Kieffer said. “One word to accurately describe him was tough.”
Prior to sustaining his injuries on the first day of The Crucible, Hogan had sustained broken ribs when a horse fell on him in the fourth grade.
“Hunter simply stood up, brushed it off and kept going,” Kieffer said. “He continued about his daily activities, which included baling hay and riding bulls.”
His father didn’t learn about the injuries until two weeks later.
Hogan also broke his neck in a rodeo in Abilene, Kansas, at the age of 17, Kieffer said.
“The first question he asked as you can imagine was ‘When can I ride again?'” he said.
After suffering his injuries on the first day of The Crucible, Hogan’s drill instructor forced him to seek medical help.
“H.D. was informed that he needed surgery,” Kieffer said. “He insisted they just put ice on it so he could get back to his platoon and finish The Crucible, and that’s exactly what he did.”
Hunter graduated from the Marine Corps despite his supervisors urging him to seek a medical discharge and reap the financial benefits from disabled military status, Kieffer said.
He said Hogan’s military awards included Infantry Training School, Infantry Training Regiment, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, Purple Heart, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Navy Sea Service Deployment, Combat Action Ribbon and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
Besides Hogan, 15 other fallen heroes are honored during the Ride to Remember each year. There also are stops in Batesville, Sunman, Aurora, Bennington, Madison, Scottsburg, Sellersburg, Clarksville, New Albany, Bartlettsville and Versailles.
Marine Lance Cpl. Jacky Koenig, who died April 7, 2017, was the last fallen hero added to the ride. He is recognized each year during a stop at Vernon Cemetery, where he is buried.
Each stop includes an introduction by bagpipers with the 35th Indiana Pipes and Drums, an opening prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance, recognition of Gold Star Mothers, roll call, the reading of each fallen hero’s biography, the reading of a poem, the placement of a memorial plaque and a rose, a three-volley gun salute and the playing of “Taps.”
The public is always invited to attend each ceremony and travel with the riders from one ceremony to the next.