In Depth: Raising American heroes - KMSP-TV

In Depth: Raising American heroes

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Mothers always hope their children will grow up safely and make a difference in the world, and one Minnesota mom has five sons did who that by becoming soldiers.

If anyone ever needed an outlet for stress, it's Holly Elledge, of Bloomington, Minn.

She often rides her Harley to give herself some distance from a military mom's worst fears.

"It takes my mind off of worrying about the boys," she explained. "Where they are and what they might be doing -- and the harm they might be facing."

Still, she keeps her five sons close to her heart, and pins from three branches of the U.S. military -- Army, Marines and Air Force -- decorate her leather motorcycle vest while she rides. She'll be adding a pin for the Navy soon.

  • Aaron, the oldest, is a tech sergeant with the Air Force.
  • Steven is also in the Air Force. He served in Iraq and is now stationed in South Korea.
  • David enlisted with the Army Reserves. He too spent time in Iraq.
  • Seth, a Marine, is based in California. He returned home from his second tour in Afghanistan just a couple months ago.

Elledge thought she would catch a break from worry when her youngest son went to college last year instead of to a recruiting office -- but it wasn't to be.

"He was there for a semester and then he decided he was going to join the Navy," she recalled.

The 19-year old told FOX 9 he always kept the military option open.

"I want to make a change in the world", Caleb added.

Caleb has been training hard, running and swimming, because he hopes to become a Navy Seal, but boot camp comes first and will begin this week.

"Probably the main reason I joined was … my dad went to Iraq. It really moved me when he went," Caleb recalled.

Randy Miller went to war five years ago. He spent a year in Iraq serving with the Army National Guard and then came home safely.

"I got so mad at people who said people where only going over there to fight and try to get oil. My dad was not doing that at all. He was getting civilians out of the main cities and helping people," Caleb said.

Randy Miller and Elledge divorced years ago, and he stayed in Indiana while Caleb and the brothers who were still young enough to be at home moved to Minnesota with mom.

Elledge knows her sons will see the rewards from service -- just as she has feels the sacrifices.

With her sons stationed all over the country and sometimes around the world, family time just doesn't exist anymore. The last time they were all together was 2004.

"You don't get the family stuff. I don't think a lot of people know what the families at home go through even if they [sons and daughters] are not deployed,"

Elledge says she spends a lot of time on Facebook and video chatting with her sons, and that helps her deal with the long stretches of not seeing them in person.

"I can't imagine what the moms in WWI and WWII went through when they had to wait months and months for letters. I don't think I could do that," said Elledge.

Yet, most moms couldn't imagine doing what she does -- coping with the knowledge that all five of her children put themselves at risk to protect their country, because the truth is, any of them could end up in harm's way.

Since the Miller men serve in mostly different branches, they will never serve together -- but the fact that they serve at all makes Mom incredibly proud.

"As soon as I get done with school and I have time to sew, I am going to make a jacket," Elledge vowed. "I have a sister-in-law [who] does embroidery, and I am going to have her help me. Part of it is going to say, 'I raised American Heroes.'"

Randy Miller told FOX 9 by phone that he is very proud of his sons, just like Elledge.

The red, white and blue runs deep in the family. Both of the boys' grandfathers served.

One in the Air Force and the other in WWII, earning a purple heart.

But how many moms like Elledge are out there? We don't know. FOX 9 checked with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Office of Defense. A spokesperson said they don't keep track of how many family members serve at the same times "because defining the parameters of family members is problematic." Several military groups told us they don't keep statistics on that topic.

Not even the museum in Iowa, which is dedicated to the five Sullivan brothers who died during WWII, keep the information. Their story, in part, was the inspiration for the movie "Saving Private Ryan".

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