Friday, April 06, 2007

Explosive Ordnance Disposal 2nd Class (Diver) Curtis R. Hall

Remember Our Heroes

Explosive Ordnance Disposal 2nd Class (Diver) Curtis R. Hall, 24, of Burley, Idaho

Petty Officer 2nd Class Hall was assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit 11, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash.; died April 6 from enemy action while conducting combat operations near Kirkuk, Iraq. Also killed were Chief Explosive Ordnance Disposal (Diver) Gregory J. Billiter and Explosive Ordnance Disposal 1st Class (Diver) Joseph A. McSween.

Times-News -- EVERETT, Wash. - Petty Officer 2nd Class Curtis Hall, 24, of Burley was the type of man you might expect to volunteer to defuse bombs, to save people.

The towering 6-foot-7-inch former high school basketball player "was like a ray of sunshine," said his sister, Brenda Thibeault, 37. "He loved to tease and play, but knew where the line was. He always knew how just to have fun."

He was already a hero long before he died Friday in Iraq, while assigned to defusing and detonating bombs. Hall was probably killed by an improvised explosive device, or IED, although no specifics have been released, said a spokeswoman for Navy public affairs at the Pentagon.

As a lanky 14-year-old Boy Scout, he was credited with saving his father's life in a rafting accident in the rapids along the Salmon River.

A fierce windstorm worked a boulder loose from a cliff. A chunk split off, hitting Hall's father in his arm and head, breaking his arm and knocking him unconscious.

He plunged face down into the water.

Even though the teen himself was hit on the arm and injured by another chunk of rock, he jumped out of the raft in an attempt to save his father.

But he couldn't flip him over on his own.

One of Hall's older brothers, Randy, 16 at the time, jumped in after them, and together the boys grabbed their father and swam him to shore.

The young men were awarded the Boy Scout's Honor Medal, for unusual heroism and skill in saving a life at considerable risk to themselves.

Their story was featured in Boys Life, the official magazine of the Boy Scouts of America.

Years later, the brothers would join the Navy, both serving in combat in Iraq.

Randy Hall was wounded in Iraq in 2003 when his Humvee was attacked, killing a sailor beside him. He is now attending college in Dillon, Mont. The Navy has agreed to fly him to a military mortuary in Dover, Del., this week to escort his brother's body to their family home in Idaho.

Thibeault, 37, said saving their father's life was characteristic of her fallen brother, who would later volunteer for the dangerous job of dismantling bombs in the Navy.

Hall earned three medals as a specialist in defusing and exploding bombs underwater, a Pentagon spokeswoman told the Times-News on Monday.

He was the youngest of five children from a family in Burley.

After hearing the news, neighbors of Hall's parents and the Boy Scouts lined their cul-de-sac with 67 American flags.

Hall enjoyed shooting guns, riding his Harley-Davidson motorcycle, driving Jeeps and running around in his new snowmobile, Thibeault said.

Chukk Fogel, 24, of San Diego, became friends with Hall in Florida where the two were training to be explosive ordinance disposal technicians.

They became fast friends and spent many nights hanging out together, Fogel said.

"He loved the outdoors," he said. "He loved to go up in the mountains and go (four-wheeling) with his Jeep. He had a huge Jeep with huge tires."

He also had a more artistic side, learning to play guitar, piano and trombone, Thibeault said. He also was family oriented, always taking time to visit his siblings.

He called his mother, Pam, who is an elementary school teacher, on her birthday Thursday, the day before he was killed. It was his second tour of duty in Iraq.

During his first tour, Hall, a certified diver, trained dolphins to locate and clear mines.

Between tours, Hall visited his family for Christmas, and bought the snowmobile he kept in his parent's garage.

Thibeault said her family is still numb and in shock, trying to cope with the loss of the young man who always seemed so full of joy.

She said her family has turned for comfort to leaders at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where they attend.

"My parents don't blame anyone, the war, or the Navy," she said. "But in some ways, they don't feel it's fair because he was such an amazing person. It's not fair to take somebody like that, but there's a reason for everything, and someday we'll know that reason."

One of Hall's older brothers, Michael, died of a mysterious illness in 2003.

Shortly before his death, he posted a tribute on the Web to his brothers, who were both in the Navy at the time.

"My younger brothers are heroes," he wrote. "Not only to me and my family but to the whole community of Burley, Idaho."

Explosive Ordnance Disposal 2nd Class (Diver) Curtis R. Hall was killed in action on 4/6/07.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your heroism will never be forgotten. Thank you for your service.