Specialist Hawker was thirty-seven years old when he fell from the tower. He was a military policeman tasked with training the Iraqi Army, and had over a decade of service as a soldier. His introduction to the military was Desert Storm, which he spent guarding nuclear missiles in-theater when he was barely out of high school. Now, he was the oldest man in his company. He saw himself as a mentor figure, looking out for the younger guys, and avoided promotion to NCO in order to stay closer to them. His team usually rode front or rear truck in every convoy-the most dangerous positions-with Hawker riding the gun. The reasoning was that he was experienced, and wouldn't get jumpy on the trigger.
The IED that hit him consisted of two 220mm mortars and fifty pounds of explosive. It tore through a set of T-walls and blew Hawker and his partner twenty feet out of the watchtower. He remembers a bright flash, followed by someone telling him to get down, but in-between those events, there's a blank space. "I Rambo'd," he says. "I got up, ran to the wall and started letting loose with my weapon." He doesn't remember any of it.
Three weeks later he was ordered back to the tower. His reaction was immediate. "I flipped out. I had a real fear of being in a confined space." It was the first indication that Hawker had developed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Regardless, he finished his tour.