Sunday, October 10, 2010

Army Spc. David A. Hess

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. David A. Hess, 25, of Ruskin, Fla.

Spc. Hess was assigned to 526th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.; died Oct. 10, 2010 of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. Also killed was Staff Sgt. Dave J. Weigle.

A Parkersburg man killed in Afghanistan this weekend is coming home to be buried.
Details are sketchy, but David Alan Hess, a 2003 Parkersburg South High School graduate, was apparently driving a vehicle that was struck by a roadside bomb, said Hess' mother Kathryn Dowler.

Hess, 25, had been living in Ruskin, Fla., where he worked in construction before he joined the military in December. Hess, a member of the 101st Airborne, shipped out to Afghanistan in June from Fort Campbell, Ky., said Dowler, who spoke to Hess about two weeks ago.

"He called me every week," she said.

Sarah Hess said her brother talked about seeing his buddies hit by a roadside bomb. She spoke to him by phone on her birthday and the two chatted over the computer once or twice a week. "He was scared," she said. "There was a roadside bomb and one of the guys in his platoon had been killed and he was scared."

Hess' Facebook page lists "Only the dead have seen the end of war" as his favorite quote.

Hess' father Jeffrey was the first member of the family to be notified of his son's death.

Jeffrey Hess, who lives in Ruskin, said he was heading to work Sunday afternoon when he was informed by military officials. He described his son as the all-American kid who played baseball, football and wrestled at Parkersburg South, and enjoyed hunting, fishing and watching sports.

Jeffrey Hess called his daughter Sarah Hess to deliver the news. Sarah Hess called her older sister, Christie Hess. The two drove to Cisco in Ritchie County to tell his mother. "My mother was the last to know," Christie Hess said. "We couldn't find her."

Dowler, who was four-wheeling Sunday, didn't return to the house until around 7 p.m. when she was greeted by her daughters and servicemen. "They showed up around 3 o'clock in the afternoon," Dowler said. "I got back at 7 p.m. and they were still sitting on the porch, waiting on me when I got back."

Dowler said funeral arrangements are being made at Lambert-Tatman Funeral Home on Pike Street. Memorial services will be at the South Parkersburg Baptist Church, but a date has not been set, Sarah Hess said.

Dowler said everything is up in the air until Hess' body is released by the military. Dowler had nothing but praise for the officers helping the family. "They have been excellent," she said.

Dowler said Hess will be buried at the family plot in Sandyville next to his grandfather, who died in March.

Sarah and Christie said their phones have been ringing off the hook from people calling to express their concern and condolences. "I don't even answer my phone," Sarah Hess said. "It still won't bring him back."

When the men in formal military uniforms showed up at the door of her Fort Campbell, Ky. home on Sunday afternoon, Diane Hess knew right away why they were there.

"It felt like they literally punched me in the chest and ripped my heart out," the Tampa-born Hess said about hearing that her husband, Army Pfc. David Hess, was killed in Afghanistan.

The man she fell in love with five years ago in Ruskin was another American service member killed by an improvised explosive device. As she cried over the news, her little boy turned to her and asked a question. "Mommy," asked 4-year-old Bryor Hess, who was born in Ruskin, "is daddy alive?"

The two met after David Hess moved to Florida from West Virginia to live with his father Jeffrey Hess, who had moved to the state after divorcing David's mother.

Diane Hess even remembers the day. Hess said she was introduced to the then-19-year-old construction worker by friends. They quickly became friends and, within months, friendship blossomed into more, says Hess.

For her, anyway, it was love at first sight. "I knew from the first day I saw him" she says, her voice trailing off. Hess said the two got together on Jan. 7, 2005, her 23rd birthday. Eleven months later, on Nov. 23, their son Bryor was born.

The man who loved the outdoors, loved to hunt deer and fish with his dad, stuck with the woman he would wed Dec. 6, 2008, said Hess.

"He never missed a doctor's appointment," she said. "He was there for the birth."

But as the family came together, David Hess lost his job building aluminum cages for pools as the Florida housing bubble exploded. He was rehired, but then laid off again. With no income, Hess said her husband turned to her with an idea.

"He came home and said to me he was going to join the military," she said. "He mentioned that a couple of times before, but he never really had something to push him. Now he had me and his son and he just wanted to make sure we were taken care of."

After David enlisted, they moved from Ruskin to Fort Campbell on Dec. 1, 2009, she said. At first, being on their own was the best thing to happen, she said.

Then came the basic training and military schooling. Four months ago, he was deployed to Afghanistan with the 1st Battalion, 75th Cavalry Regiment, 101 Airborne Division Air Assault.

When he first got there, he was stationed in Kandahar, with easy access to the Internet and phone service. The couple communicated frequently. But by July, David Hess was moved to a new location, and the calls and Skypes were more sporadic. Through it all, Hess said her husband kept a brave face. "He didn't talk too much about the stress," she said. "He told me to stay strong, he would be coming home."

But the horror of war took its toll, especially after his good friend, Cpl. De'Angelo Snow, was killed. While he "sugar coated everything" to his wife, David Hess was more vivid in his Facebook posts. "I wish these would stop blowin' us up; it's gettin' old...just shoot at us," he wrote in his last post, on Oct. 5.

Now Hess has a husband to bury and a child to raise on her own. "He thinks his daddy is at work," she said. "I had to try to explain to a 4-year-old that his daddy was not coming home."

Before leaving for Afghanistan, David Hess told his loved ones he wanted to be buried in West Virginia.

Jeffrey Hess spoke to his son two weeks ago and he said Pfc. David Hess was nervous after a recent roadside bomb injured several of his fellow soldiers. "He said he didn't want to die like that," said Hess.

But on Sunday David's unit came under attack in Afghanistan and he was killed in an explosion after less than a year in the Army. "He changed into a man and he really straightened his life out," said Hess.

Hess talked about David's worries after he lost his job just before enlisting. He said David was worried about providing for his wife and child and he had a desire to be a man they would all be proud of.

"He wanted to retire from the Army and leave behind a legacy for his wife and son," said Hess who tearfully remembered his last conversation with David.

"I told him I loved him and that I missed him."

Army Spc. David A. Hess was killed in action on 10/10/10.

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