Major William F. Hecker, III lived and died by one of his life mottoes.
"He was very impressed with Theodore Roosevelt, and Teddy Roosevelt used to say 'you have to get into the fray,' and that was sort of a motto of his," said Evelyn Fox, a McLean resident and close family friend of Hecker.
Hecker, 37, was killed in action in An Najaf, Iraq on Jan. 5 . According to a United States Department of Defense press release, Hecker and four other soldiers, one of whom was Capt. Christopher P. Petty, 33, of Vienna, were killed when "an improvised explosive device detonated near their HMMWV during convoy operations." The soldiers were assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, TX.
"It's very sad, but he was—and his mom really wants everyone to know—a soldier, and he loved what he did," said Fox.
Hecker graduated from McLean High School in 1987. He was a career military officer and literary scholar who authored numerous articles. In addition, he was the editor of "Private Perry and Mister Poe: The West Point Poems, 1831."
He is survived by his wife of 13 years, Richelle, and their four children, Alexandra, Victoria, Cordelia and William of Harker Heights, TX; by his parents retired Colonel and Mrs. William F. Hecker, Jr. of Vienna, and by his brother, 1st Lt. John Hecker (USMC) of Okinawa, Japan.
"He was a wonderful husband, son and father," said mother, Nancy Hecker, whose tour company Custom Group Tours has led the McLean Community Center tours for many years. "He was the light of our life, he was a solider and a scholar, he loved his country and he loved his family."
It was just six months ago that Evelyn Fox last saw Hecker and his family.
"They were here this summer," said Fox. "I saw him and then we took his children and went to Reston Farm Park and fed all of the animals."
BORN IN COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., Hecker grew up the oldest child of a career military couple. Subsequently, he lived in locations such as Redstone Arsenal, Ala., Heidelberg, Germany and McLean, where he resided from 1984-1987. After graduating from McLean High School, he accepted an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point. While there, he earned a B.S. in Engineering Management and sang with the Cadet Glee Club.
From 1991-1998, Hecker served in various field artillery assignments at Fort Sill, OKkla., in Germany and in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 2000, he earned a master's degree in English from the University of Oregon, and then returned to West Point where he served as an instructor and assistant professor of English, teaching composition, rhetoric and literature.
Hecker published articles and spoke at national and international academic conferences about subjects ranging from Mark Twain to baseball, to theories of rhetoric. In June 2004, he presented a paper at the Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture, arguing for the connections between patriotism, the army and baseball. His facsimile edition of Edgar Allen Poe's 1831 West Point Poems, "Private Perry and Mister Poe," was published by the Louisiana State University Press in the spring of 2005.
Hecker completed the U.S. Army's Command and General Staff College in 2004. He was deployed to Iraq in November as the Operations Officer of the 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery in the 4th Infantry Division. His military honors include the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart Medal, and the Combat Action Badge.
"I remember him as a very special young man," said Fox. "He was very positive and he was a young man who was a joy to everyone. He was just a really special guy in the fact that he was a great student, and he was a caring young man who was very inquisitive and who loved life."
<lst>*In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the William F. Hecker, III Memorial Fund. Contributions will go toward one award at West Point in Major Hecker's honor, to charities that support the children of fallen soldiers, and toward a USMA Library special collections section. Indicate the account number 3165552 on the check memo line. Checks should be mailed to: William F. Hecker, III Memorial Fund, c/o First Command Bank, P.O. Box 901041, Ft. Worth, TX 76101-9778.