“For the first time since I was on Active duty, I belonged to something I believed in.” Meet Bo Hagaman
My name is William Bo Hagaman and I am the Veteran Outreach Director for Team RWB Lock Haven-Williamsport. Just out of high school, I quickly realized that I wasn’t ready for college and I would rather serve my country, just as my step father, Larry Boyce had. I joined the Army 13November1989 and left for basic training on the 29th of the same month. I was deployed to my first active duty station in Bamberg Germany in June of 1990, just before Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait. In December 1990 we were deployed to the Gulf and I quickly found myself in the middle of the deserts of Saudi Arabia, living a mostly boring day to day life of work and training.
During my time in the desert I suffered a back injury doing my daily job as a Light Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic. I went and saw the Dr. and was told that there was nothing wrong with me. I went back to the day to day of life. Once the Gulf War was over I was sent from Germany to Ft. Stewart in Georgia. It was here that my back injury quickly took over my life. Because the 24th Infantry Division was a quick reactionary force, training on a day to day basis was much more strenuous and it became apparent that my back would not let me do what I needed to do. I visited the TMC (troop medical clinic) 9 times with my back hurting, not able to walk without pain, not able to do anything physical without extreme pain, I was told there was nothing wrong with me, given Motrin, and told to never come back.
I left active duty in November 1993, unable to continue to do my job. I joined the National Guard and married the same month. Leaving active duty I sought help from outside Dr.’s and it was quickly found that I had herniated a disk in my back and that because I was allowed to keep working and doing PT, I now had extreme damage to the area and the vertebrae were now sliding around and causing the pain. I made it without surgery until February 1995, the VA had quickly taken over my medical treatment when they found out what had happened on active duty. The VA operated, they totally removed the disk at L4-L5 and put in rods and screws to hold my spine together. It was 2 years before I was allowed to do anything, I went back to school.
I retrained in school as a computer geek and quickly got a job in my field with some close friends who knew my situation and were willing to help me. In 2002, I began having serious pain again in my back, this time I made it to 2006 before more surgery was needed. This time they removed the disk at S1-L5 and put longer rods and screws in to hold my spine together. I now had lost movement in my back from S1-L3, the length of the rods. I never really recovered from this surgery. I went back to work in January 2007, never fully able to do my job again, I made it until September 2008 before I could no longer work at all.
My home life quickly broke down and so did I. I had 3 boys by this time and I was unable to do much with them at all, nothing physical. During this time I was on 18-22 different medications a day, I had many more operations while they tried to figure out what was wrong with me and I suffered with major bouts of depression. In October 2010, I divorced my wife of 16 years, my boys’ alternated time between myself and my ex. When my kids were with me life was somewhat normal and I could pass as normal, when I was alone I drank often and a lot, my depression became severe and many times I contemplated suicide, I could no longer deal with life. My counselor suggested I find a hobby, I began taking photos of running races and bike races.
At the Remember Boston run in Lock Haven in 2013, I ran into some people I knew who were veterans from the area running in the race. They introduced me around and I became friends with the folks from Team Fear the Kilt. The Team changed to Team RWB not long after I began spending time with them. I joined Team RWB in October 2013, the same month I had my 10th operation on my back. I quickly transitioned from shooting any races to trying to find and shoot races where Team RWB had the most impact. I had gone from being alone in the world to finding and being part of a family again, I began to feel again like life had meaning. I began to walk on Sunday’s with the team at the Fun Runs and started doing anything I could with the people of Team RWB.
In February 2014 the Chapter Captain, Sean MacMillan asked me to be the team Veteran Outreach Director and I accepted, knowing that this would be difficult because of my physical situation. I began talking to anyone I could about the team and getting the word out about what Team RWB had to offer veterans and community members alike. For the first time since I was on Active duty, I belonged to something I believed in and wanted to spread the word, I also was finding that I could do more physically and needed much less pills to do it. I began to be able to walk further and further the more I walked, I bought a bike and for the first time in 15 years was able to ride. My teammates did nothing but encourage me and help me do better and I wanted to be better. In July 2014, I began to run, not without a lot of pain still, but with Team RWB behind me I felt I could be better. I signed up for my first 5k, The Dandelion Trail Run to be run August 20th, 2014. With a lot of help, I set my sights on a time of 45 minutes for the run. With teammates Sean MacMillan, Bill Bechdel,, and Jennifer Forshey running at my side the entire time, I finished in 44:41…it was the most amazing thing I have done in my life.
I no longer have to drink to sleep, to keep the nightmares at bay, I am now taking just 4 pills a day, I haven’t considered suicide seriously in a long time, and I now do everything I can with my Team RWB family. I still have a lot of problems, but I no longer feel that they can keep me down because I am no longer just myself, I am part of a team and a team is much stronger than an individual!