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. Nino

    Unfortunately there is always a last casuality in War .My sincere condolences to the Family of the fallen soldier.
    Here is a question. When i was in High School ,Vietnam was the conflict and now its Iraq and Afghanistan .In that space of time does anyone remember a time of peace .When our Men and Women in the Armed Services were not at risk .We have shed a lot of blood and spent massive fortunes on these conflicts and in the end only to embrace our former enemies .Question : When will we learn for our past and Is there a better way.

    December 16, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      "When our Men and Women in the Armed Services were not at risk " By definition, "no". Our military exists for that very reason. We are always at risk, as there is always someone, somewhere who'd like to make a statement.

      December 16, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • surfzup209

      Nino, There has been very little time since WWII that our servicemen men have not been in some sort of "conflict". WWII, Korea, Viet Nam, Angola, Somalia, Granada, Panama, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and several other places that I am sure I have missed... Our country's economy depends on our military being involved somewhere... If all of those who have jobs that support our military's needs lost their jobs because we didn't have a military action happening somewhere, there would be millions more on the unemployment lines. Face it we have built our shakey economy on the need for these "wars or conflicts"...

      December 16, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. JDC

    Regardless of whether we think the war was a good or bad decision and whoever is to blame. The fact is the troops don't decide where they are stationed or where they are deployed to, but they took on the choice to protect our country and serve our country. Thank you to the troops who were brave enough to stand up and be willing to fight and serve!

    December 16, 2011 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  3. TC

    Our warriors can take no more – the amount of deployments, especially on soldiers and marines, has been more than anyone can bear. Congress can keep up their antics with "showing their appreciation and caring" but if they really did, they would either add a lot more people to the ranks or get out of the operations to not overtax the current force. In case anyone hasn't figured this out – our elected officials are either incredibly dumb or just don't care – most have advanced degrees and training,so do the math.

    December 16, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jonas

    While all due sympathy to Mrs. Hickman, her son's death is not Obama's fault. The date of departure of American troops has been known for years, ever since the Bush Administration negotiated the agreement to leave with the Iraqs. And the departure of thousands of troops and materiel is not possible "on the sly."

    December 16, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  5. The Dude

    Ok, the guy may have been the last to die, but hero? Come on. You belittle the word by labeling everyone a hero. His death was a waste, that's all it should be viewed as, a sad waste of a promising life.

    December 16, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • TC

      My guess is you cynical , unempathetic and have absolutely no clue what it takes or means to sacrifice. Best you go back to your bong and just appreciate the liberty that has been provided to you.

      December 16, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nickles

      His death was not as much a waste as your life keyboard warrior.

      December 16, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      You are 100% correct. Those are died in Iraq died for nothing, and people need to face that.

      December 16, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  6. AP

    As long as we still have troops over there, the war is not over. If the war is truly over, then bring everyone back. Drives me nuts to hear this. Soldiers are still being shot over there, so sounds like the insurgents don't know that war is over. Wait until everyone is out to post this story out of respect for our troops.

    December 16, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • TC

      Spot on AP! I said the same thing but there are a couple of trolling idiots on here that just cannot comprehend this.

      December 16, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Dolly

    I am truly sorry for all the deaths that happened in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, Mrs. Hickman needs to remember that when you are a soldier walking around with a rifle and all our other weapons you are always a target in a war zone. It was impossible to remove several thousand troops slyly. I understand her pain, but unfortunately her son was not one of the lucky ones who made it back. So sad.

    December 16, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Glimroc

    Last to die. What arrogance. Americans go in and destroy a country and they think that their last soldier dead will be the only one that counts.

    Doo you think the bombing will stop? Do you think young misled people will stop strapping bombs to their chests?

    What arrogance. Clean up the mess you create around the world and stop strong arming anyone you want to.

    December 16, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  9. smsusaf

    Honor the troops get real I fell used by Obama to get out so it will help him in 2012..my tours in Iraq was for not if it was up to Obama...to my brothers god bless you all

    December 16, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      No, you were used by Bush and Cheney. Only a real idiot would blame the President for leaving the disaster war.

      December 16, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • AJUTAH

      I did 3 tours in the last 4 years over there. You can go back, get your tax free, eat all the MREs and get shot at all you want. It's time to being everyone home. Now we have Real "Mission Accomplished!"

      December 16, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Johnny

    EVERY death in Iraq was a volunteer and NEVER in vain. They volunteered to serve their country. THEY ARE ALL HEROS!!! ALL of YOU who sat comfortably at home did not volunteer to serve anyone except yourselves.

    December 16, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • test

      Thats a rediculous comment.

      December 16, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • TC

      @test – and how so? What depth of meaning and wisdom can you impart that would be so converse?

      December 16, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Johnny

      Test and tc you stayed at home...........

      December 16, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • TC

      Johnny – I did a full career and my comment is supporting you – please pay better attention.

      December 16, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • yourmom

      When you die in a war that was declared on blatant lies and was not needed then, unfortunately they did in fact die in vain. You should be mad at the politicians that declared this war not the people telling the truth about it.

      December 16, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      This country is no better off from Iraq, we are worse off from this war. No death in Iraq was for freedom, it was to make Haliburton rich. This is a very sad reality.

      December 16, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Pliny

    Kinda ironic....4500 Americans sent to their death....

    ....sent by bush, the coward who hid in the ANG while 58000 other Americans died in Vietnam....

    ...sent by cheney....aka...Five Deferment Dick. Another coward who things that service to America is giving billions to Haliburton.

    May they both burn in hell.

    December 16, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • RRS

      Absolutely correct. Those b a s t a r d s sent all those kids to die for NOTHING!! The war in Iraq did not eliminate out true enemies or make the mainland US any safer. History will asceratin that this was the most wasteful, unnecessary and stupid foreign policy endeavor in our history. And, the unfortunate but real truth is that all those who died lost their lives for nothing.

      December 16, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  12. TC

    Johnny – I did a full career and my comment is supporting you – please read more closely.

    December 16, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Johnny

    I do not agree with gov policy on how this war was carried out. We should have been out of there 6+ years ago, but those who served are not at fault or their families!

    December 16, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Bill in Florida

    Blaming the President for ENDING the war? You've got to be kidding me!

    December 16, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  15. flopflipper

    It was a stupid war to start. And a stupid war to keep fighting. I'm glad we finally found an exit strategy.

    December 16, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
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