Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Letter Home

CPT John Hallett Afghanistan 2009

SPC Dennis Williams, Driver Afghanistan 2009
I wanted to share with all of you a letter I wrote to Cynthia on 18 September 2009. About three weeks after the death of my Company Commander Captain John Hallett, his driver SPC Dennis Williams, our Battalion Physicians Assistant CPT Cory Jenkins and our Battalion Senior Medic SFC Ronald Sawyer.
SFC Sawyer with his niece Emma and his 20 month old son Daniel
picture courtesy of

    "Just wanted to write you a letter and say I love you and miss you very much. Things are going good here and I don't want you to worry. I remember you told me I could write you about things here that were happening and how I felt during the situation and the things I did. Well I figured that now would be a good time to tell you about something. It is therapeutic right?

I have been reading a lot going to bed around 0100 or 0130. It is funny how when I am home I never really buy anything for myself and now that I am in Afghanistan I am Amazon biggest customer. I always have that feeling that I should read all the books I can in case, well, you know.

I wanted to write you and tell you about what happened on 25 August. This is probably the hardest thing I have had to do, actually write to you about it.

The patrol we were on went to the Shah Wali Kot district center to do a Key Leader Engagement with he leaders then conduct an assessment of the medical clinic in the village. We left that morning at 0800. I had two medics in my MRAPand cross loaded CPT Jenkins and SFC Sawyer into CPT Hallett's Stryker. We departed the FOB and headed north to Shah Wali Kot. When we got there I got out with CPT Hallett and we talked a little bit (he was sick) as we walked up to the district center to meet with the police chief and ask about the clinic that was about 1/2 mile away. We left and went to the clinic and we were there for about hour. During this time CPT Jenkins and SFC Sawyer look at the facility and even treated a few people that were there.
CPT Cory Jenkins

As we mounted back up to head to the Forward Operating Base (FOB) I had move forward in my MRAP and got onto the road. We had 2 Mortar vehicles, the HHC commander, my vehicle and CPT Halletts vehicle so five total vehicles. 51 was already ont he road and pushed forward, the road was very narrow and the strykers could not pass me so I called CPT Hallett and said the order of movement would be 51, me, HHC 6, A66 9CPT Hallet's vehicle and 52 picking up the rear. We left and headed to the OB. As we were driving I heard a big "Boom" and the radio came to life. HHC 6 called me and said "IED hit" I immediately looked in the rear view mirror and saw a huge pillar of smoke rising in the air. I immediately told my driver to turn around and drove past HHC 6 towards the the vehicle that was hit by the IED. I saw it was A66. The scene was horrific the vehicle was flipped over and the back end now faced the direction we were traveling.

Out of the back door I could see a leg hanging out like someone was lying down in the back. I dismounted and ran to the vehicle. I did not know if anybody was with me but I knew we had little time if we were going to save anyone. My biggest fear was that it was going to explode. In retrospect I should have been worried about the enemy ambushing us with small arms fire. But I did not think about it. I ran up to the vehicle and the fire inside was spreading and the smoke was rolling out of the vehicle. I got inside and someone was yelling for help. I could not see any further than about 2 inches in front of my face. I was choking from the smoke and could feel the fire on my face. I heard someone yelling and could see SPC Pannel crawling through the smoke towards me his head was bleeding so I grabbed his vest handle and pull him out of the stryker. At this time SPC Chaney (my company medic) and SSG Banuelos (my HQ PSG) took care of him and began to take off his gear. I went back to the stryker to find my friend and commander CPT Hallett.

I saw an arm under the back part of the Stryker and knew that was CPT Jenkins. I got back into the Stryker now with SSG Banuelos with me and the .50 cal rounds were now starting to cook off and we could hear them exploding outside the Stryker. SSG Banuelos and I tried to get SFC Sawyer out of the vehicle but the fire was intensifying and I knew that it would be only minuets before the AT-4 (Anti-Tank Missile) would explode causing in effect more casualties. So I pulled everyone back away from the vehicle. I was mad because I could not find CPT Hallett............

SPC Pannell was air medevac'd I I helped carry him to the bird shielding his face from the flying debre and placed him on the bird.

When I got back I started to think about what happened and that CPT Hallet's vehicle was in the spot of the convoy I was supposed to be in. I feel bad like maybe I had something to do with this tragic event and was the cause of many deaths that day. I gathered the company and told them the news as I fought to hold back my tears. After things had settled down I sat and watched while members of the company started to pack up CPT Hallet's belongings, my thoughts went to his new born daughter that he was talking about at dinner the night before.

I can't explain how I felt losing my friend. How helpless I felt watching that Stryker burn and knowing my friend and other Soldiers were in it. I still think about this at night went it is quiet and I know that I could not have saved them without jeopardizing the lives of even more Soldiers. Did I do the right thing? Did I do EVERYTHING I could? I have held my feelings in for this long and try to remain strong and focused for the Soldiers and the leaders of the company, but I never thought it would be this hard again. After Iraq and all the fighting we did in Mosul I thought I had become hardened by battle but the feelings just resurface with every death.

But I am doing it baby and I could not have asked for a better group of Soldiers and Leaders. I just wanted to write you and let you know what happens and courage our young men display every day they are here. The impossible tasks that they are asked to perform everyday. But they put there fears aside and continue the mission.

Even through this ugliness goes on I still know that I have an angel waiting for me at home. I want you to know that I WILL be home soon and give hugs and many kisses.


This is a letter I know that there were many hero's that day and I write this a tribute to all of those involved. Thank you all for letting me tell you about an event I still think of everyday.

LT Kim XO, me, and CPT Hallett NTC



  1. Gene, you are a great man period !!!!!

  2. You are my hero. I love you very much.

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  4. Thank you. Thank you for your service. Thank you for your dedication to my friend John. Thank you.

  5. I just came across this, as someone who happened to know Cpt. Hallett personally. This personal journey into that tragic day brought tears to my eyes, but I thank you for sharing this. I know John is ever present, watching over his family and his Army. Thank you for your service to this country.

  6. I was a good friend of Spc. Dennis Williams. The driver..... his wofi has told me what she knew, but them just completed the picture for me. Thank you so much for sharing. Thank you for your service. You are my hero.

  7. what about Dennis Williams he was my brother how did he die? 206 915 8894 please call me.

  8. I was just sent this link by a friend of my nephews, SPC Dennis Williams. Thank you for sharing what happened that day and for letting us know that it was instantaneous. We are grateful he did not suffer. We miss him terribly, but his children are growing up to know what a hero their father was.
    It had to have been awfully hard for you to write that blog.
    Julie Fleischer

  9. My sister ran across this on Memorial day somehow. I am grateful for the holes that you helped to fill in for me. I am always trying to get info, but find it hard to get people to talk. I would really appreciate a chance to email/talk with you someday. Thank you for doing all that you could. That means the world to me.
    Brooke Jenkins Walters

  10. The 4th anniversary of that horrific day has come and gone. We miss our hero, Dennis Williams. Julie Fleischer, proud aunt.

  11. Thank you all for you comments and gratitude. I am humbled by your words. Please like my blog and pass it around you never know who may see what you saw and how it may help them "fill in the holes". If you ever want to talk to me just email I answer and check my email daily.