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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, March 8, 2004

Schofield families report for duty

By Karen Blakeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

Vicky Hatch has been an Army wife for 32 years and was a military brat before that.

Lt. Chris Hatch, front, Sgt. Rob Hatch, middle, Col. Richard Hatch, left back, Vicky Hatch and Sgt. Russell Hatch share some laughs at their home in Schofield Barracks. All four soldiers are shipping out to Afghanistan.

Rebecca Breyer • The Honolulu Advertiser

She has five stars displayed on a banner in her front window, a nod to patriotic emblems of World War II moms and a sign that she will be sending five soldiers into harm's way.

In addition to her husband, Col. Rick Hatch, Vicky will send three sons to Afghanistan this spring: Sgt. Robert Hatch, 29; 1st Lt. Chris Hatch, 26; and Sgt. Russell Hatch, 24. Her son-in-law, Capt. Brady Traum, is commanding an aviation unit in Iraq while her daughter, Teresa, awaits him in Germany.

The Hatch family has worked hard to keep themselves assigned together, and to stay in touch when that couldn't be worked out. For the first time in her life, the Army will clear her home of all her charges, except the Hatch family fish, Yoda.

"On the previous combat tours I left the kids with her," said Col. Hatch, a Vietnam veteran. "Now she's sending them all with me — it's your turn to watch the kids!"

Paula Stampley has been a military wife for 22 years.

She knew that one day her husband might be called to war, and although she didn't like the idea, she accepted it when he told her he would be among the Schofield soldiers shipped to Afghanistan.

What she didn't expect, and found harder to accept, was that when Sgt. Maj. Tim Stampley leaves in the coming weeks, he'll be taking Pfc. Tim Stampley II, their 19-year-old son, with him.

"My first reaction," Paula Stampley said, "was they can't send them both — they just can't! There has got to be a law."

The Navy has regulations limiting family members from serving on a single ship in a war zone. And under special conditions, the Army can pull soldiers out of combat under the "sole surviving son/daughter" regulation, the genesis of which provided the thesis for the movie, "Saving Private Ryan."

But there are no Army regulations that prohibit family members from going to war together.

With the Army's new emphasis on deploying large units of soldiers instead of sending in individual replacements, as was the practice in Vietnam, more couples, siblings and cross-generational family members will be traveling into war zones with their loved ones beside them.

At Schofield, where soldiers are deploying by the brigade, the Hatches and Stampleys will make the Afghanistan deployment a family affair.

Sgt. Maj. Tim Stampley, left, and his son Pfc. Tim Stampley II both head to Afghanistan this spring.

Pfc. Tim Stampley II, sitting on floor, and his father, Sgt. Maj. Tim Stampley, share a light moment at home with Paula, left, Pfc. Stampley's mother, and Candace, 15, one of his sisters.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

The three Hatch sons, who all live at Schofield or nearby Wheeler, lapsed into impersonations of their mother celebrating her independence, eating only what she wants to eat and calling first dibs on every book in the house, but Vicky Hatch said she wished they didn't have to go.

"If they've got to go," she said, "I'm glad they will all be together. They will take care of one another and they will take care of the other soldiers, and in a sense, I'm all right with that ... "

"I love you, Mom," Chris said.

"But I'm not saying I won't stand there and bawl when they leave," Vicky said.

Paula Stampley said she eventually came to terms with the fact that her husband and son would both be going, and is glad Tim's father will be there to watch after him. But that level of acceptance came only after she had searched through Army regulations, convincing herself there was no way to override her son's orders.

Sgt. Maj. Stampley shook his head. He laughed, then stopped when he saw his wife's icy glare.

"This is a volunteer Army," he said. "Tim volunteered to come into the United States Army and serve his country, and that is what he is going to do."

Stampley said that throughout high school, his son had been considering a military career that would complement his interest in computers. Paula had been talking to him about the Air Force. Then, Sep. 11, 2001, came, and Sgt. Maj. Stampley could see the world was changing.

"It wasn't a nervous time," he said. "It was an inquiring time. If he did come into the military, where would he be assigned? Where would I be assigned? Would we go to war? Would we go together?"

He made some calls, he said. Asked around about likely scenarios. Then he took Tim to an Army recruiter.

Pfc. Stampley signed up and asked to be stationed in Hawai'i, his father's next duty assignment. A few months after he'd completed his training, the family learned that both the Stampley men would go to Afghanistan.

"Over these last 17 months," Sgt. Maj. Stampley said. "I've had a chance to see my son turn into an outstanding man. What I've seen makes me extremely happy. He made a wise decision."

"It's the first time that I'll be away from home, really," the younger Stampley said of the deployment. "Well, except that my father will be there."

Tim said he will take a video camera and plans to send video home to his mother and to his sisters, Candace, 15, and Brittany, 20. Paula and the sergeant major are keeping diaries for each other.

When asked what made them pursue a life in the military, the Hatch men, including the colonel, lifted their arms in unison — an apparently well-practiced maneuver — and pointed at Vicky Hatch.

"Vicky was born a buck sergeant with 20 years time in grade," Col. Hatch said.

He said every time he thought about giving up his career and starting something new, Vicky, who grew up a military brat and loved the nomadic life her parents gave her, talked him out of it. He was eligible to retire 15 years ago. Vicky said she still isn't ready for him to get out.

The Hatch sons say that for them, the military was an obvious choice: like their mother, they had been born into it.

"I started thinking about going into the military when my mamma told me to," Russell Hatch jokes — sort of.

Russell was still in high school when the Hatches all got themselves assigned to South Korea together. When the family set its sights on Hawai'i, Russell was the last to catch up.

"I was a reservist in D.C.," he said. "Dad called and asked me if I wanted to stay in D.C., or come to Hawai'i. So, I made a couple of calls, had my packet transferred, bought myself a ticket — well, Dad bought the ticket ... "

Russell was brought onto active duty from his Hawai'i-based reserve unit when Schofield's 3rd Brigade needed another computer information system operator to take to Afghanistan. Robert will go as a combat medic. Chris is a maintenance officer who will join the 3rd Brigade a little later than his brothers — just after the birth of his first child in May.

Col. Hatch is the commander of Division Support Command.

"The old man," the sons translated. "Top pop."

"Mom wanted to go," Robert said. "But we had a shortage of openings in her specialty."

"We couldn't get her activated as a mom," Chris said.

So Vicky Hatch said she will stay at home and rely on the support of other military wives. They've been there for her before. She knows they always will be.

When her children come home — her sons changed in the way people change after going to war, the oldest two boys returning to wives who have changed the way spouses change when they've run a household alone — she'll be there for them. She and the colonel have made the transition before. They know it can be a difficult one.

"You have to work a little harder," Vicky said. "Sometimes, you can't just meet them halfway. Sometimes, you have to meet them all the way."

Reach Karen Blakeman at 535-2430 or kblakeman@honoluluadvertiser.com.