FORT RILEY, Kan. (ANS - Jan. 9, 2012) -- Love can make people do
some crazy, unusual, heroic things.
Lt. Col. Michael Katona, commander of 4th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, visits squadron Soldier Pfc. Kyle Hockenberry during a
recent visit to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. Courtesy
Pfc. Kyle Hockenberry deployed with Soldiers from 4th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, in February of 2011. The 19-year-old Soldier was injured less than four months later when an improvised explosive device exploded next to him during a June 15 patrol outside of Haji Ramuddin. Courtesy
A dance outside in a rain storm, a midnight flight across the
country, a dash into a burning home, none of these are outside the
realm of what people will do for those they love.
1st Infantry Division Soldier, his love for his family and his
country led him into an Army recruiter's office, onto basic
training, up the road to Fort Riley, Kan., and around the world to
And then that love led him right to death's
Pfc. Kyle Hockenberry, 4th Squadron, 4th Cavalry
Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, joined the Army in the fall
of 2010 after a summer full of friends, dirt bikes and post high
school graduation parties. Joining the Army was the realization of a
dream for the young man from Marietta, Ohio.
wanted to serve my country, protect our freedom, to keep the life
that all the ones I love live safe," the 19-year-old said recently.
Hockenberry's enlistment wasn't much of a surprise for his
parents, Chet and Kathy Hockenberry.
"Being a Soldier was
all Kyle ever talked about, even when he was little," Kathy said of
her youngest son. "I still have all his G.I. Joe guys that he always
used to play with because he didn't want me to get rid of them."
Kyle graduated from basic training in January 2011 and was
assigned to the Big Red One's 4th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment
"Pale Riders." The Pale Rider team was already busy making final
preparations for a deployment to Afghanistan when Kyle arrived and
the new Soldier began his own preparations for this upcoming mission
-- a mission that would have him leaving Kansas in less than six
First on Kyle's list of deployment preparations was a
visit to a tattoo shop in Manhattan, Kan.
"I had wanted a
tattoo for a long time and I wanted to finally get one before we
left," he said.
One evening, shortly before the deployment,
Kyle and a few fellow Soldiers "went under the needle." One of the
Soldiers had his children's names or birth dates tattooed, some had
a lucky number or special picture done but Kyle selected a seven
word phrase that had been rolling around in his head ever since he
decided he was going to be a Soldier.
That night, the tattoo
artist etched, "For those I love, I will sacrifice" onto Kyle's
"I thought since I was in the military that it
would be a good one to get," he said. "'Those I love' is for
everyone -- for my parents, my brother and all my family but it
really for everyone in the country."
Kyle left for
Afghanistan in February 2011. Less than four months later, during a
June 15 patrol outside of Haji Ramuddin, the young man who never
wanted to be anything other than a Soldier was forced into a better
understanding of sacrifice.
"We were in a firefight in Haji
Ramuddin and I don't know if I was trying to move into cover or
something but I stepped on a pressure plate (improvised explosive
device)," he said. "I don't remember anything after that for a long
The blast from the pressure-plate-initiated improvised
explosive device cost Kyle both legs and his left arm. It
cost Spc. Nick Hensley his life.
"I received a phone
call at work on June 15 and the caller said Kyle had been
seriously wounded in Afghanistan and that we would get
another call later with more information," Chet said. "Every
call, they kept telling us that they were right by his side
doing everything they could for him. They were dedicated 100
percent to getting him home to us and we are very
appreciative of what everyone did for Kyle."
Kyle home to his family was no easy task. Kathy said medics
"lost" her son several times on the battlefield and in the
medical evacuation helicopter. Kyle's kidneys and liver
failed and Army representatives prepared Chet and Kathy for
a trip to Germany as they didn't think Kyle would survive
the flight back to the states. But then Kyle stabilized and
the Army transported him to Brooke Army Medical Center in
The young infantryman has been there
Kathy said the recovery and
rehabilitation process has been challenging but her son has
shown an amazing strength in the face of some great tests.
"I'm not surprised though," she said. "Kyle has always
been very tough."
If it weren't for people like Kyle
and his fellow Soldiers who sacrifice so much, the country
would be in pretty bad shape, according to Chet.
are just so proud of them and all their service," he said.
"They are all heroes in our eyes."
pieces of the future remain uncertain for the young man from
Ohio, Kyle is sure of one thing -- if the Army will have
him, he wants to stay on active duty and do whatever he can
to continue to help his brothers and sisters in uniform.
"I want him to be happy," Kathy said. "Whatever he
chooses to do, I just want him to be happy."
now, Kyle is looking forward to being fitted for his
prosthetics and getting healthy enough so his doctors will
clear him to travel to Fort Riley in April to attend the 4th
Sqdn., 4th Cav. Regt. Welcome Home Ball.
everything is good, I plan to be there," he said.
far as his mom is concerned, this is certainly a goal easily
within her son's reach.
"If there was ever something
out there you told him he couldn't do, he would tell you he
could and then he would do it," Kathy said. "Kyle wants to
be at that ball and if he has anything to say about it, he
will be at that ball."
For Lt. Col. Michael Katona,
commander of 4th Sqdn., 4th Cav. Regt., having the
19-year-old Soldier who has served as an inspiration to so
many at the ball would be an honor.
"He is still
part of this squadron," he said. "He will always be part of
By Mollie Miller
U.S. Army 1st Infantry Division Public
Army News Service
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