Afghanistan war veteran and single father Ryan Hagen wears many hats on a daily basis.
The 29-year-old balances work, fatherhood and serving as the chair of a veterans group at his local church in Hudson.
Becoming a successful single father wasn’t easy for Hagen. His parents split when he was a child and he ended up bouncing around the foster care system before he and his brother were adopted as teens.
Hagen joined the U.S. Marine Corps after graduating high school and soon after got married and welcomed a daughter.
“When she was born, I took a few steps out of the hospital room, leaned up against the wall and had a few tears by myself before I went and got the family. I realized it’s not about me anymore. It’s not about what I want. I live my life for her and her needs,” he says.
Hagen’s marriage ended when his daughter was a toddler.
Being a single father with 50/50 custody of a young daughter is no easy task. Hagen found a positive support system through Faith Deployed, a veterans group at Christ Community Chapel in Hudson. The group helps veterans suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and other issues.
“We do a buddy system where we team up with someone else in the group so if you’re having a hard time or considering suicide, you have someone to call that you can talk to,” Hagen explains. “You’ll never feel like you’re being judged or that someone doesn’t know what you’re talking about because they weren’t there.”
Hagen says his fellow group members have played a vital role in helping him navigate the waters of fatherhood.
“When you’re a single dad, you don’t have anybody on a daily basis to bounce your thoughts off of and with PTSD issues, you don’t ever want to go into a PTSD episode and have your child on the weekend,” he explains. “You need an outlet and someone to talk to.”
Finding a Support System
Through the group, Hagen met fellow single dad Will Morris, a former Army medic, and now the two regularly team up for play dates and help one another out with their families.
“We take the kids out together, we go hiking together and if he needs something I help him out and vice versa,” Hagen explains.
Hagen also relies on advice from the elder veterans in his group.
“Many of these guys have kids who are my age,” Hagen explains. “My daughter (now 7 years old) is a young lady and she’s growing up quick and there’s a whole bunch of issues that I’m going to need help with down the road and they’ve been there before.”
Paying it forward
Hagen has learned a thing or two about single fatherhood and says his best advice is to make your time count.
“I don’t see her every day, so I don’t take it for granted,” he explains. “Whether that’s going to the park or the movies or going on a train ride through the Cuyahoga Valley, or road trips. I keep her away from the TV screen, there’s no tablet at my house, I’d rather spend time with her. I can’t imagine it’s any different than any other dad; I just don’t get as much time.”
Faith Deployed meets at 7 p.m. on the first Monday of the month at Christ Community Chapel, 750 W. Streetsboro St., Hudson. New members are always welcome.