Saturday, March 29, 2003

Mom's sons share Army bond

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo] Nancy Hoskins made a poster of her sons.
(Michael Snyder photo)
| ZOOM |
HAMILTON - Nearly 20 years ago, Nancy Hoskins was a homeless teen mother forced to give her two older sons up for adoption.

Now she has found them - and all three of her sons are serving in the U.S. Army. One is in Afghanistan, another in Iraq. And her oldest, Army Sgt. Chris Kelly, 25, will be sent to Iraq this weekend.

"It's a miracle. It's an absolute miracle," said Hoskins, 42, weeping Friday in an interview at her Franklin Street home. "I was looking for them for 18 years and then I found them in one day's time."

Reached at Fort Hood, Texas, on Friday, Chris Kelly said he was pleasantly shocked when his mother recently contacted him after so many years. He is at peace now, he said, as he prepares for the battle ahead in Iraq.

"It's closure," said the soft-spoken father of a 5-year-old boy. "I carried a picture of her in my wallet all these years and used to tell my little brother whenever a train would go by our foster house, `Mom's on that train, and she's coming to get us.' It's funny now, though. I never really appreciated family until I had a kid of my own, but it sunk in."

Chris Kelly

Michael Childs

Joey Kelly
Back in 1985, Hoskins was struggling alone in Fairfield with three little boys: There also is Joey Kelly, now 22 and a paratrooper, and Michael Childs, now 20. Chris and Joey were adopted against her wishes, she said, after she turned them over to a foster home.

"We were walking the streets during the day, sleeping in shelters at night," Hoskins recalled. "I tried to get them back, but they said I had signed adoption papers.

"I don't remember doing that, but I was very young then and in a bad point in my life. I had every intention of getting them back. I never stopped looking and believing."

The two older boys went to an adoptive family in Chillicothe before eventually moving to Gainesville, Fla., where they grew up. Chris was 7 years old and Joey 4 when they were adopted.

Meanwhile, she and Michael's father continued raising him, and she briefly lived in Florida and Atlanta, where she waited tables.

After moving to back to Hamilton in 1991 and marrying for a second time, she resumed her search, scouring Web sites and registering with reunion agencies. Her husband, Fred, even cashed in his $4,200 retirement fund to pay for her search.

But it wasn't until last month, when she contacted the Ohio Adoptee Searches & Reunion Registry, that things happened. The agency was able to track down Chris by day's end. She telephoned him, then flew to Texas.

Joey already was deployed to Afghanistan. But Michael Childs, an Army Reserve combat engineer, was able to fly to Texas from his base in Fort Campbell, Ky., to be reunited with brother Chris.

Hoskins flew back again to Texas earlier this month and spent five days with Chris, his wife, Danielle, and son, Jonas.

Hoskins is waiting to contact Joey until he returns from Afghanistan, because she and Chris think the news might be too stressful for him right now.

"I was always worried about the resentment they might have toward me," Hoskins said. "I had accepted that, but Chris was totally opposite. He wanted it as badly as I did. He held me in his arms and told me not to feel bad or worry. `It's in the past' he told me."

Now, this worried mom stays busy making buttons with her sons' photos and yellow ribbons.

She also hung a poster titled "My Three Sons" with the men's service pictures on a tree in her front yard Thursday and decorated her front porch and living room with red, white and blue ribbons and patriotic picture frames around other photos of her sons.

"They're all heroes," she said, smiling through her tears. "They're my troops. It's so weird they all wound up in the Army.

"I am so proud of them and all our troops. Now I understand why parents are sad to send their children off to war. We are supposed to protect our kids and now they are protecting us."

She tries not to watch the graphic war coverage on television, busying herself in the meantime with making special plans for next Christmas. She hopes to have all her sons home in time to celebrate what would be their first Christmas together in nearly two decades.

"I never could get on with my life once they were gone, let alone celebrate Christmas," Hoskins said. "Now I'll do a lot of praying, and I just want all three of them to be safe and come home."


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