Monday, September 04, 2006

Army Pfc. Hannah L. Gunterman

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Hannah L. Gunterman, 20, of Redlands, Calif.

Pfc. Gunterman was assigned to the 542nd Maintenance Company, 44th Corps Support Battalion, Fort Lewis, Wash.; died Sept. 4 from a non-combat related cause in Taji, Iraq. This incident is under investigation.

Loss in Iraq grieved

by Debbie Pfeiffer Trunnell, Staff Writer
San Bernardino County Sun

In pitch darkness early Monday, Army Pfc. Hannah Leah McKinney of Redlands climbed down from a guard tower at Fort Taji, Iraq, and headed across a dusty road to a latrine.

She never made it.

As she walked across the road, a Humvee drove out of the darkness, ran over the young soldier, then sped away, leaving her small crumpled body lying in the dirt, according to family members.

More than an hour later, a tank driver found her and rushed her to the base medical center, where she died of internal injuries.

Death came two months before McKinney, 20, was due to return to the Redlands family the young mother had pined for during her deployment.

"The war had been taking a toll. She had been depressed and calling home a lot," said her mother, Barbie Heavrin. "All she wanted was to come home and start a new life."

Since her deployment to Iraq in November 2005 with the 542nd Maintenance Company, 44th Corps Support Battalion, McKinney served as a quartermaster at Fort Taji.

Her duties included order processing and manning a machine gun on a guard tower at the base, the job she was doing when she was killed.

Sgt. Jeremy Pitcher, a spokesman for Multi-National Force-Iraq in Baghdad, refused to comment further on her death, saying it was still under investigation.

McKinney was born to Matt and Barbie Heavrin in 1985 at Western Medical Center in Tustin.

Growing up in Colton and Redlands as one of the couple's four children, she was a cheerful child nicknamed Happy Hannah.

"She was always making us laugh. One time at Huntington Beach, she was sitting by a campfire eating potato chips when she said, `Dad, these chips don't want me to eat them anymore,' " recalled Matt Heavrin.

At Paul J. Rogers Elementary School in Colton, she read every book she could get her hands on.

Her favorite was "Gone With the Wind."

"She read it about 12 times," said Matt Heavrin. "I think she identified with Scarlett O'Hara because they were both very decisive and strong-headed."

But for chance, McKinney's life might have ended nine years before she died in Iraq.

While riding her bicycle in Redlands at age 11, she was struck by a car. The impact split her helmet in three places and sent her flying into the windshield.

"She was so excited about starting school at Arrowhead Christian Academy that she nearly left without her helmet that day," said her father. "Thank goodness she remembered because she only ended up with a concussion, scrapes and bruises."

At the academy, she joined the choir and drama department, where she would have loved to play Scarlett but never got the chance, said Barbie Heavrin.

She continued to belt out tunes as a student at Redlands High School and also pursued an interest in fashion design.

Against her father's wishes McKinney joined the Army right out of high school to earn the money to go to The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles.

"I tried to talk her out of it because she was more of a free spirit than a regimented person," he said. "The thought that she might get sent to Iraq was also in the back of my mind."

At Fort Lee in Virginia she dated a fellow soldier and became pregnant with his child. She was discharged from the Army in 2004.

She returned to active duty in 2005, and a long friendship she had with fellow Redlands High School graduate Christopher McKinney blossomed into romance when both were stationed at Fort Lewis, Wash. They were married just a month when the Army shipped her out to Iraq.

Now, her husband, 22-month-old son Todd Avery Gunterman, parents and siblings mourn her loss. Christopher McKinney, still stationed at Fort Lewis, was is in Redlands to make arrangements for the funeral.

"I will miss her beautiful dimples when she smiled, but at least we still have her son," said her mother.

At Fort Taji she will be remembered as the young soldier who started a library on the base.

"I'm sure it has a lot of copies of `Gone With the Wind,' " said Barbie Heavrin.

Army Pfc. Hannah L. Gunterman was killed supporting Iraqi Freedom on 09/04/06.


Anonymous said...

God bless you, Hannah Leah, you stubborn, confounding, brilliant, beautiful little sweetheart.

I miss you.

I always will.

Goodbye, my friend.

Anonymous said...

I miss you so much Leah, and I pray that you rest easy. I hope one day to see you again and that you will remember me.
I love you and I always will

Anonymous said...

It was a sad day for me when I went to visit you and was told you were dead, the only thing on my mind was how and why, to that I found out how and why. I'm sorry you had to go I know how much you were looking forward to redeployment. And, as for the driver of the Humvee, I hope they threw the book at him when the plane landed back at Fort Lewis. Even though no amount of punishment they give him will bring you back, I look forward to the day when I can see your smiling face again.... Till we see each other again....

candie said...

oh Hannah, my dear friend.
i wished you could of seen Todd and Hope playing to gather.i miss you and you know what i know you miss me and everyone here. you know you were there for me when i called and said Hey im pregnant and i am scared. you offered to talk to me and you know, be there.
i cried today and got angry and just plain ol' hurt when your mom told us of a comment posted that, "SHE DESERVED WHAT SHE GOT!"
knobody no the hole story. But i can say this much, i will pray for you. the person who is so perfect and dosn't sin. i will pray no onr you love or cherish is RAPED or killed then left to DIE alone. but perfect person know your words will go with me and you , i will pray god shows you light and mabey Hannah will be your angel as she is already so many peoples and no harm comes to you or your loved ones.
candie r

Anonymous said...

Its still hard to believe....
I frequently replay the last day I saw Gunterman. There was a change in her, a great change. Who wouldn't focus on their priorities when sentenced in war. She was very happy, all she could speak about was her beautiful little boy. She was snuggled on her bed, smiling from ear to ear while recapping a phone conversation she had earlier. She couldn't wait to reach the states again. My heart goes out to her family,especially her little boy. I pray that justice will be served, no one responsible to be let free (including the US Army). ^^^Why was this war so uncivilized and unjust?^^^ I cried many nights, thinking about what happened to my fallen comrad. I can't believe how our lives were placed in harms way for unnecessary reasons. Do they know how one life effects another? No, they will never understand. I connected with her and she with me. We were a family, a family that has been broken. God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference. Rest in peace

Anonymous said...

I served with Hannah she will be missed I am greatly sorry that I didn't get my hands on Sgt. Shell before the M.P.s picked him up