BRUSSELS — With 28 countries in the NATO alliance, its headquarters is home to flags of all patterns and colors.
But the one hanging in the office of the U.S. military representative to NATO includes a familiar red background and big white “N.”
Army Lt. Gen. David Hogg proudly flies the banner of Husker Nation, having spent many of his formative years in Nebraska.
He was happy to see Chuck Hagel named secretary of defense and excited to welcome the former U.S. senator from Nebraska at headquarters last week for two days of meetings with other NATO defense ministers.
And Hogg had a special request. He wanted the secretary to autograph his Husker gnome.
A grinning Hagel said he'd never seen such a thing before but gamely signed his name and “Go Big Red” on the little Nebraska elf.
“He's pure Nebraskan, to the point, straightforward, what you see is what you get,” Hogg said of Hagel. “And he's got a wicked sense of humor.”
In his current job, Hogg represents the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the military side of NATO, looking out for U.S. interests.
He does that by building relationships with his colleagues. As a group, they provide military advice to the political side of the alliance.
Hogg, 54, broke away briefly Wednesday from a busy slate of meetings on NATO capabilities, the future of Afghanistan and cyber-defenses to chat with The World-Herald about how he adopted Nebraska and its college football team as a youngster when his father was stationed at Offutt Air Force Base.
Originally from Chicago, the elder Hogg was assigned to Strategic Air Command from 1968 to 1972 and then again from 1975 until his retirement in 1984.
Hogg said he has fond memories of pheasant hunting with his father and brother. He was too young to carry a gun, so he played the role of bird dog.
Driving back from the fields they would listen to Lyell Bremser calling the games over the radio in their Ford Galaxie 500.
After the family moved back to the area, Hogg graduated from Bryan High School. His family stayed in Nebraska even after his father retired. His parents are buried in Bellevue.
His office has the Nebraska flag, a Nebraska pennant, a Nebraska football. There's also a framed photo of an observation platform in Iraq flying the Nebraska flag.
At the time, U.S. soldiers were not allowed to fly the U.S. flag in Iraq.
“But no one said anything about Nebraska flags,” Hogg said.
A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, Hogg has been deployed all over the world and was previously the commanding general, U.S. Army Africa.
He said his Husker flag has been all over with him, although at times it would briefly disappear when Oklahoma fans were in the area.
He and his wife have three sons. One is a former soldier and now a contractor in Afghanistan. The youngest just finished his first year at West Point.
Hogg pointed out that he was actually born in Idaho.
“However, my heart's Nebraska's.”
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