PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — In March 2001 Brandon and Sky Hoard became newlyweds. Six months later their marriage became long distance.
“So I turned the TV on and watching the news,” Brandon said, recalling the events of September 11, 2001. “Just as I flipped it on the second aircraft crashed into the second tower. And so by that time, you know, the adrenaline kicked in and we’re throwing clothes on and getting ready for work and trying to get out the door.”
The call-up from the Oregon Air National Guard came two weeks later. Brandon, who is now a Master Sergeant with the Oregon ANG, was part of the ANG Mobile Radar Unit that was sent north of Seattle to allow the FAA to upgrade its radar.
He did his job as a diesel mechanic for months.
“We were at the mercy of a pretty brutal schedule,” he said. “It was a pretty difficult” way to start a marriage.
“Some of these deployments now, you know, he’s going into, you know, he’s going to be gone six months or nine months,” Sky said. “But this was just open-ended, you know? They didn’t know when he was going to come home.”
His longest mission was a year-and-a-half in Wyoming.
“We were in Jackson Hole, Wyoming to, basically provide aerial and radar coverage, to guard the vice president, Dick Cheney. So he lived in that local area,” Brandon said.
In 2008 he went to Iraq. In 2013, Afghanistan.
“I did what was called FOB hopping, going around from base to base fixing vehicles, prepping those vehicles for shipment,” he told KOIN 6 News. “So you never knew if the aircraft was going to get shot at when you’re flying from airport to airport, and there’s nothing you can do when you’re in an airplane. You’re at the mercy of, you know, the bullets coming at you.”
Sky said it was “hard keeping the kids reassured that everything would be OK, staying strong for them, because I felt like if I broke down and then my kids saw that and they would be more worried.”
She admitted she cried when she was by herself. Brandon added, “We had many night where there was mutual tears.”
The day they spoke with KOIN 6 News was the day after Afghanistan fell to the Taliban.
“It’s so raw. I don’t even know how to put it into context, but a lot of people’s lives were lost over there,” he said. “And I guess I could just say that I wish things turned out a little different, a little bit cleaner.”
It’s hard for Brandon and Sky Hoard to believe it’s been 20 years since 9/11. Their son Jesse is now 25 and they’ve had many life changing moments and sacrifices in those years.
“The experiences that you get, the memories that you make, the friends that you make, the people that you share them with, the lives that you touch,” he said, ” you can’t really put a price on that.”