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. TC

    I prayerfully hope he is the last one but since we still will continure ot have thousands over there for the foreseeable future – it seems unlikely and I find it appauling that while operations are still ongoing there that CNN or our government would label this the LAST to die. Innappropriate, immature and shows the level of incompetence of those who write about war.

    December 16, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Exactly- everyone knock on wood.

      December 16, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gungy

      Well said.

      December 16, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Observer

      He was the "last soldier to die before the official announcement of the end of the Iraq war" as stated in the story.

      Next time, why not READ a story before making IGNORANT comments?

      December 16, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • TC

      Hey IGNORANT observer – Iraq is not officially a war so it cannot be called "over". Get with the program dumba– : you are one of the people I am talking about that is incompetent about military operations.

      December 16, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • jt

      @Observer: You are the one displaying the ignorance. Next time, why not COMPREHEND a story before making IGNORANT comments.

      December 16, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Observer

      The FACTUAL statements in the story just proved the IGNORANCE of those who criticized it.

      Attack the factual messager rather than admit your ignorance. That's fine. That's all you have left.

      December 16, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • BorisMKV

      Hey, TC, go read the cease-fire agreement from the first Persian Gulf war. That one never ended and the Iraq war is a continuation of it caused by Saddam's refusal to comply with the terms of the cease fire.

      December 16, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • What?

      @TC, hey, since when is Congress declaring a war via a vote considered "not a war" as you state? Congress voted to declare war, I went with many, many others, thank God I came home. Observer is correct. This is a war, it was not about 9/11 or we would have fought Saudi Arabia, and the CPL is the LAST soldier to die before the end of the war was announced. This was a Bush made up fantasy that killed and maimed thousands of Americans and turned the world upside down. Maybe you should do a lot more study of why we went to WAR, why we went to Iraq and not Saudi Arabia where 19 of the 9/11 attackers came from, and why many of the coalition nations signed on to help and how much we had to PAY them to be there. I was there and saw it.

      December 16, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gungy

      To observer: I READ the story and I know exactly what it stated. The fact remains we have service men and women still over there, they will still be there after Dec 31, 2011 and there will still be violent actions against them while they are there. I don't know if you have ever been to "officially" says so, they end when people stop killing each other. I'm glad these people wear the uniform so that you can remain free and were willing to sacrifice their lives so you can remain ignorant to your intellectual self-inprisionment.

      December 16, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Observer

      Speaking of remaining ignorant, where does the writer say that this is the last person that will die in Iraq?

      What part of this statement is false or that you can't comprehend? "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"

      December 16, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Duane

    His mom is right, announcing to your enemy you are leaving only makes your enemy more determined to kill you.....sad he doesn't understand that and only wanted the political points

    December 16, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      Very difficult to "disguise" the withdrawal of 50,000 troops. The insurgents would have figured this out. Don't put this on the President for "political" points. The timeline to withdraw was agreed upon by President Bush. While both the military commanders and the President wanted to stay longer they could not get a guarantee from the Iraqi government concerning prosecution against our troops for possible crimes they might commit.

      December 16, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • MarkinFL

      Its called reality. Is it better to announce it ourselves or let Iraq announce it? There was nothing secret about the decision, since it was based upon an Iraqi decision not to extend immunity to our troops past New Years. . Everyone would have screamed about trying to hide something if he had not announced it.
      I understand the emotional reason for his mom to blame the announcement, but there is no rational reason to have not announced it and many many rational reasons as to why it was necessary.
      Question. Was there a sudden increase in violence in the weeks after the announcement? I have not heard that at all.

      December 16, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cedar Rapids

      You think you can slyly remove all the troops?
      You think the people on the ground fighting them dont know more about their activities than we did anyway?
      And seriously, if he had tried to do a sly thing he would have been ripped to pieces for 'leaving with tail between his legs' or 'cutting and running'

      December 16, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Allie

      Pretty sure they were determined to kill us before the announcement. I feel sorry for his mother, but her remark was uncalled for.

      December 16, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • katrinanyc

      Iraqis were never the "enemy" to begin with, and we were never at war with Iraq with the specificity that we were in Afghanistan. We invaded Iraq, then we occupied it. The U.S. government's public relations people would like you to believe it was a "war" because the "o" word sounds dirty - when it was, in fact, an occupation.

      December 16, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • EJ

      In today’s world Americans are targets! In an active theatre of war or on vacation we are all subject to acts of terror and retaliation. Iraq is just one front that these brave men and women, volunteer and sacrifice to protect the interest of the U.S. After diplomacy, sanctions and the threat of military interdiction fail, it’s these volunteers who take up arms to impose the will of the U.S. and the UN. The sacrifice of Specialist Hickman and those before him should be grieved and honored. We still have war fighters on the frontlines and deserve our support and respect of their efforts.

      December 16, 2011 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
  3. jewells

    This story just broke my heart. I was at my desk reading this and I found myself in crying. I really wish he had made it home for Christmas.

    December 16, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bill

    What a waste. What a total utter waste. I can't imagine sacrificing a son or daughter to this debacle. When will we ever learn.

    December 16, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |

      Vote for Ron Paul to prove learning has occured.

      December 16, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Observer

      Not another Republican. They were they ones that started this war.

      December 16, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ally

      Observer, it's obvious that you're main issue is to make everything partasain. Yes, a republican was in the White House when we chose to go into Iraq. But you can't tell me that if this had happened with a democrat in charge that the choice would have been any different.

      December 16, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Observer

      "But you can't tell me that if this had happened with a democrat in charge that the choice would have been any different"

      False. Here's the FACTS. 97% of Republicans in Congress voted for the war. The MAJORITY of Democrats in Congress voted against the war. FACT: Barack Obama held a press conference as Congress was taking the vote and said the war would be a big mistake.


      December 16, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Buzz

      Time will show this conflict was not a waste, but another example of America shouldering the burden of defending freedom in this world. The dictator is gone, it is springtime for Arabs, and tens of millions have a shot a freedom they
      never would have dreamed of ten years ago. Most of the rest of this discussion is just people showing how much they
      hated one President and like another one

      December 16, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  5. saywhat


    Amen to that. Hope & pray that all our troops come home and no more American blood is shed on far off lands for trumped up political causes .

    December 16, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mary

    I remember on 9/12 and for several weeks after – people complaining nothing was done. No one likes war – and people are fools to think it would have only lasted a few weeks.

    My prayers for all the service people and those they love

    December 16, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Observer

      Bush's war in Iraq had NOTHING to do with 9/11.

      December 16, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • MarkinFL

      Exactly, our country was bamboozled into supporting this war because so many people felt the need to do SOMETHING. Too bad Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with any terrorism at all and we knew that going in. Why we did not just focus on Afghanistan and other countries supporting terrorists is up for political debate. I say follow the money.

      December 16, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ally

      Agreed, Mary. How on earth could we know all the ramafications? What would have happened if we hadn't chosen to go to war? I do not envy the people who have the huge responsibility to have to make these choices. They make these choices based on a scope and information that us lay people do not have.

      December 16, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • TC

      @observer = go troll somwhere else. No one want you here and anything you write is pure and utter garbage – incompetent dumba–.

      December 16, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Observer


      It's always easy to tell when someone has lost an argument and has no facts left, they resort to juvenile name-calling. Well done.

      December 16, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bobobobobobo

      ::face/plam:: Really? After all of the facts were let out people are still confusing 9/11 with Iraq?

      December 16, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  7. skipper

    Last Man To Die In Vietnam and..

    December 16, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |

    Jeez the Army uniform looks like trash compared to the Marine Corps. I mean what is that camo supposed to blend in with? Grandmas couch?

    December 16, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • TC

      We'er talking about dead warriors here – this isn;t the uniform forum.

      December 16, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jim

    The question is irreconcilable and thereforte wrong question.
    "Was the Iraq war worth the human and financial cost?"
    4,000 are killed per year on motorcycles
    40,000 are killed per year in vehicle accidents
    400,000 die from smoking related illness.
    We can live forever without answers to such questions.

    December 16, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Observer

      None of those deaths were caused by people being sent to their deaths in the war started by Bush and the Republicans.

      December 16, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bobobobobobo

      So it was totally worth it to kill off over 4,000 souls because this useless war had a lower mortality rate than the deaths you listed?

      Can you please SFTU, live far away from everyone, and never vote again? Clearly you are not an emotionally functioning human being.

      December 16, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
  10. John

    I see how some are saying that announcement made troops the targets. However right around it was announced people were complaining that announcement will make the bad guys just sit it out until the troops leave. I guess there is no winning for president either way.

    December 16, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Bellabryan35

    My soldier is scheduled to come home this weekend, God willing. Although I understand the mother's comments, I don't think you can keep the withdrawals of the troops a secret. For the ones we lost, the ones on their way, and the ones still abroad (not just in Iraq), I pray for your safe return. Thank you!

    December 16, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Finally a post with some substance and reason and about soldiers and not politics.

      December 16, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  12. AJS

    December 16, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  13. brian

    This is a place in history no family wants to be apart. They did a movie about the last to die in WWI and WWII, They wrote a major story for the front page of the Print about the last to die in N. Korea and Vietnam.

    This young man deserves more. I understand the current President inherited Iraq, out of respect he should atten this funeral and hope it truely is the last.

    My God Bless you and you family.

    December 16, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  14. J.C.

    We still have a few hundred troops in Iraq, and they will be there indefinitely. I wouldn't be so quick to affix the "last" label to this particular serviceman.

    December 16, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • MontanaTrace

      For security reasons, exact troop counts will not be revealed. Reports vary from 4,000 to 15,000. Sleeping accommodations suggest 10,000 -12,000 beds. Figure that to be pretty close to the truth. It certainly won't be only in the hundreds.

      December 16, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Webbo

    "He also holds the DISTINCTION of being the last soldier to die before the official announcement of the end of the Iraq war" CNN must apologize for their poor choice of word. There is nothing of distinction in the loss of a Soldier hoping to come home at the end of a long war. We should mourn his death and sacrifice, instead of glorifying his death. It is SAD that we have to loose another soldier after we have annouced our departure. Loosing another soldier in Iraq should make us grieve, and should not be seen as an achievement.

    December 16, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • MarkinFL

      Distinction is not automatically a positive. It just means standing out for being different. First and last are distinctive from all others and each other. There are as many negative distinctions as there are positive. Although we frequently associate the word with positive achievement, there really is not a more precise or accurate word to use in this circu.mstance. This young man has the sad distinction of being the last soldier killed before the official end of the Iraq war. That does not mean that he will necessarily be the last U.S. soldier killed in that country. Just as to this day U.S. soldiers still occasionally die in may countries we've fought wars in in the past. Soldiers are in many places of danger that are not in open warfare.

      December 16, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
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