On November 14, 2011, Spc. David Emanuel Hickman of Greensboro, NC died in Baghdad of injuries he suffered after encountering a roadside improvised explosive device (IED). He had been assigned to 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, out of Fort Bragg, NC. He was twenty-three years old.
Upon being informed of her son’s death by the Army, his mother Veronica reportedly said: “I am proud of him. He died for his country."
David graduated from Northeast Guilford High School in 2006. An all-round athlete and gifted football player, he served as outside linebacker for the football team, was team captain and All-Conference. He also had a black belt in Taekwondo.
Like his father, who had served in the Air Force, David couldn’t wait to serve in the military. He had dreams of joining the Special Forces and enlisted straight after graduating from Ferrum College in 2009, attaining the rank of E-4. During his service in Baghdad, he earned a range of medals: National Defense Service Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Expert Infantry Badge, and the Parachutist Badge.
Combat operations were already officially over by the time David shipped to Baghdad. His platoon spent most of its time on so-called presence patrols, where they routinely walked through neighborhoods just to show potential troublemakers that the Army was still in charge. Speaking to the Washington Post, which took the trouble to highlight David’s story over the weekend, one of his buddies said that although Hickman liked the Army, “there were days on end where me and Hickman would be sitting in his room, being like: ‘Why are we even here? What are we doing?’ We were just doing police work. I totally agree with Hickman’s friends and family who are mad. We had no reason to be there anymore.”
David was due to be shipped home on December 1st, but an IED got to him first while riding in a military convoy in Baghdad. He died from a brain hemmorhage en route to a military hospital. He is survived by his wife Calli, whom he married immediately before his deployment. He was buried in in the Garden of Peace at Lakeview Memorial Park Cemetery outside Greensboro.
John Kerry famously once asked: "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" David Hickman was the 4,474th and officially last US soldier to die in the Iraq War. On Saturday, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told reporters: “Those lives were not lost in vain.” I really, really wish I could believe him.