December 16th, 2011
12:07 PM ET

N.C. soldier reportedly last to die in Iraq war

David Hickman was a star football player in McLeansville, North Carolina. He was a quiet man with a larger-than-life presence. He also holds the distinction of being the last soldier to die before the official announcement of the end of the Iraq war. That fact has made him a part of history, CNN affiliate WGHP reports.

Hickman, an Army specialist, was remembered Thursday by friends as the U.S. marked the official end of the war.

President Obama commemorated the milestone with an appearance at Fort Bragg, where Hickman was stationed before being deployed in September.

Obama, Panetta honor Iraq war troops

"As your commander in chief, and on behalf of a grateful nation, I'm proud to finally say these two words, and I know your families agree - welcome home. Welcome home,” he told cheering troops.

The coincidence did not go unnoticed by Hickman’s friends, who spoke to WGHP.

"That is so like David. He wasn't going to go out quietly. He's going to go down with a place in history," said his friend Logan Trainum. "He wasn't the loudest one in the room, but he was the most noticed one in the room. He just had that presence about him."

Home and Away: Share your tributes to fallen troops

Even in death, Hickman was making his presence known, his friends said.

"When it's in the history books, it's like we know what happened at the end of that war. And that was our friend, because he was a hero. Simple as that,"  friend Lyndsee Mabe told WGHP.

The conflict, which began in March 2003, took the lives of nearly 4,500 U.S. service members.

Earlier this month, talking to the Los Angeles Times, Trainum said Hickman told him troops were cool to Obama’s announcement in October that American troops would leave Iraq by Christmas.

"Today I can say that our troops in Iraq will definitely be home for the holidays," Obama said on October 21.

"They felt like people were going to make one last try to get them before they left," Trainum was quoted in the Times as saying.

Hickman’s mother, Veronica Hickman, told the Times that she had a message for Obama if she had the chance to meet him: "I'd tell him: 'You shouldn't have broadcast that everybody would be out by the end of the year. It made them targets. You should have slyly got them out.' "

“Hearing David’s voice” on the phone in November brought a thrill, she told the Times. He was excited about coming home for Christmas.

The next day, November 14, she got the dreaded knock on the door. The military had come to inform her that her son had been killed that morning by a roadside bomb in Baghdad.

See more from CNN affiliate WGHP

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Iraq • Military • U.S. Air Force • U.S. Army • War
soundoff (300 Responses)
  1. The Dude

    This is a tragedy. This mans death was a waste, along with every other American and Iraqi who died there.

    These people are not Heroes. They are victims. Victims of propaganda and a corrupt culture that puts people who throw their lives away on a pedestal so others will follow them into the abyss.

    Or society is rotten to the core and not worth saving.

    December 16, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • yourmom

      I too believe these people were victims but, that doesn't take away the fact that they did what they were supposed to do and did it with honor and dignity therefore...they are heroes none the less.

      December 16, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ian

      Oh, THERE you are troll.

      December 16, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Then leave the country

      December 16, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Dude

      I do what I am supposed to do everyday. Does that make me a Hero? No.

      They have a job, which many signed up for to get revenge for 9/11. They are not heroes.

      Perhaps if this solder covered the IED with his body saving the lives of those around him, then yes. But getting killed in a meaningless way does not make you a hero. It makes you victim or a fool if you signed up for it.

      Henry Kissinger once said:

      "Military men are “dumb, stupid animals to be used” as pawns for foreign policy."

      No surprise he worked closely with Cheney and Rumsfeld during the Nixon Administration....

      December 16, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hass

      100% every word agreed

      December 16, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason K

      The Dude speaketh the truth. The question is now, who will be first to die in Iran, or whatever "global policing" action we intervene in next. If you want this BS to stop you will at the very least consider Ron Paul for 2012.

      December 16, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hass

      well said,

      December 16, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • JD

      To: The Dude
      You are an ignorant POS if that is what you truly believe. I don't agree with what you said but as a member in the military I will defend your "right" to say it. I do also defend my RIGHT to call you a ignorant POS!!! Happy Holidays!

      December 16, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • melvinslizard

      Hey, Dude. You're a jerk.

      December 16, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • melvinslizard

      Perhaps the Dude could be the first one to die in Iran... just a suggestion. I'm taking up a collection if anyone is interested in contributing to the airfare...

      December 16, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Nick

    Wow, I feel sorry for his mother, but how do you blame the President for ending the war? How about you blame the last President for being responsible for her son being there and dying for nothing?

    December 16, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • EdR

      He died with honor.. serving his country. To bad his country didn't serve him.

      December 16, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Johnny

    TC thank you for your service. I also did 20 and served two times in Iraq. A lot of the population is terrified we have left Iraq, even though most want us out of there (Iraqui's). Very different mind set with the islamist to ours. This probably won't turn out good. Arab spring is a setup for radical islam to win. We are in trouble it seems.

    December 16, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Naveed

    Why does history care about the last soldier to die? What about the second and third to last? What about the 4500 before that? They are all special. Last and First are made up by us, and it really doesn't matter. They all had family and friends and were all unselfish. That should be history and not the "order" of it.

    December 16, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Jake

    @The Dude, They are most certainly heroes. They volunteered to serve this country and put their lives on the line for you, can you say the same? Regardless of whether they agreed with the war or not, they answered the call. Until you serve, don't judge anyone who has.

    December 16, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • The Dude

      For me? No

      Perhaps for the corporate war machine, Iraq was is and never will be a threat to America.

      You are more likely to die of a bee sting in American than a terrorist attack.

      This was true before 9/11 and after.

      December 16, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • pctrobia

      Exactly how are they putting their lives on the line for us? If you haven't noticed, this war was a failure and did not make America any safer. It is also ridiculous to think that any American's are safer because we flew a bunch of troops half way around the world from where we live to fight. If you haven't noticed nothing they did made America any safer than it was before they left. We need to stop wasting money fighting false wars, we can't afford it and it is a battle that cannot be won. Our enemies aren't as noble as us to come out in the open wearing a uniform to identify themselves. If we want to fight on a level playing field we need to start fighting unconventionally. Wearing a uniform makes you a big target in a hostile territory. Just dumb in my opinion.

      December 16, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lee Downie

      Well said, Jake.

      December 16, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hass

      how in th world you figure that out just because they signed up for some stupid war that costed more than 4500 american lifes for what really for

      December 16, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hass

      how in th world you figure that out (THEY DIED TO PROTECT US)
      just because they signed up for some stupid war that costed more than 4500 american lifes for what really for WHAT DID THE WAR DO FOR YOU! NOTHING! THIS WAS DICK ...CHEENY 'S WAR

      December 16, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason K

      Jake, I think you miss the point. I don't think he's judging the soldier, or the military in general, but the civilan leadership that carelessly deploys them for personal or political interest. The sad truth of the matter is every soldier lost in Iraq was lost in vain militarily. It does not mean that they were not brave or heroic personally. One medal of honor recipient died to ensure they rest of his squad lived. But the reason they were there in the first place was pointless. Unlike the defensive or reactionary wars of our past Rev, 1812, WWI, and WWII, everything following after has been "wars" of aggression. And I put that in quotes because many operations such as Korea and Vietnam were illegal in that they were not declared wars, and were strictly offensive. American interests and lives were not being protected. We were posturing politically through the use of miliary force. And the simple fact is, everytime we've done it from Korea to present day, we have lost. What has really been gained since WWII?

      December 16, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bob Schoenberger

    It is easy to throw around blame but there will always be the "last one killed" for what ever reason and those who think it should not have happened or that there was anything anyone could really do about it. It is what it is. I feel sorry for the family.

    December 16, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • csam18

      It's just sad.. Nov 14th.. they were so close to having him back. RIP brother.

      December 16, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Hadenufyet

    'You shouldn't have broadcast that everybody would be out by the end of the year. It made them targets. You should have slyly got them out.' ".....Duh....I think they were already afforded the dubious honor of being targets.

    December 16, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bob

      We obviously learned nothing about another war-Viet Nam-and how it intensified after we drew the troop strength down. The unit I was with lost more people in 1970 than 67-68 when we had more troops in country.

      December 16, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Dude

      Another war based on a total lie. You are one sick puppy Bob.

      December 16, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason K

      They were all targets the moment they invaded another sovereign country. They knew what they were getting into, and knew the risks. There were no 17 drafted boys in Iraq.

      December 16, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. js

    There´s a lot of people here in these United States of America who would not be able to point to a map of Iraq, and wouldn´t care to, that made money and are still making money and not soldier´s wages.

    These are the consequences of "my country wrong or right".

    And this young man´s life is still lost.

    December 16, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. closetiguana

    Well at least those deaths weren'tt in vain. Those WMDs are now secure.

    December 16, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. AK

    Gotta feel for Obama. The dude just cant get a positive remark from anyone. End the war that took thousands of lives and you still get blamed for another death. As Hadenufyet said, being in the region made them a target.

    December 16, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. MT

    So now we know the answer to Bruce Springsteen's question.

    December 16, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • closetiguana

      That's not his song it's a cover.

      December 16, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  12. john

    We lost good soldier

    December 16, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. CLARK

    Now Mrs. Hickman if it was a roadside bomb that killed him how do we know that wasn't planted during the bush era. ............RIP and that you for your bravery.

    December 16, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jason K

      There is truth to this statement. This soldier was not necessarily targeted. People still occasionally die in Belgium from landmines placed from WWI.

      December 16, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  14. agray

    I certainly hope the family of this soldier do not read these comments. This man was serving his country for better or for worse. You have no idea what his personal reasons were for entering the military. Men and women enter the military because sometimes it seems to be the only way to have the opportunities our country is touted for.
    Honor him and his memory and respect his mother's loss.

    December 16, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. El Flaco

    I was drafted back in the 70's when VietNam was winding down. We all knew the US was pulling out without 'winning' ()whatever that meant).

    My constant nightmare was that I would be the last American to die for nothing in Viet Nam. I don't know who that poor schmuck was, but it wasn't me.

    This war was fought over WMDs, which did not exist. Every man or woman who died in Iraq died for nothing. We are all responsible.

    December 16, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • melvinslizard

      Same ol' BS, "wmd didn't exist, he died for nothing, blahblahblah." Tell the Kurds that were murdered with VX gas in the late '80's that Saddam didn't have WMD. Tell the Iranians that died in the early '90's from Sarin gas that Saddam didn't have WMD. These courageous men and women didn't die "for GWB." If you were able to ask any of them, they would say the same thing- they died trying to protect themselves and the person beside them. Nothing more, and nothing less. Heroes, each and every one.
      You cynics can b1tch all you want, but don't rag on our troops!

      December 16, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • El Flaco

      nonsense,melvin.

      In Iraq we did not find a single WMD.

      Not one laboratory that could make WMDs.

      Not one accountant who ordered supplies to make WMDs.

      Not one soldier who guarded the factory where WMDs were made.

      Not one receipt for supplies that could make WMDs, like centrifuges or aluminum tubing.

      It's just like they never existed.

      December 16, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
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