LA VERNE, CA, USA U.S. Army PFC, HHC, 2D BATTALION, 12TH INFANTRY, FORT CARSON, CO BAGHDAD, IRAQ 06/28/2007
Army Private First Class Cory F. Hiltz’s father remembers Cory watching a nature show on television when he was a young boy. When a small animal was attacked by a larger one, he began to cry.
“He said ‘Dad, why is he hurting him? He didn’t do anything,’ ” said his father, Wayne. “We wondered what he would come back like and he came back with a bigger heart than before. He wasn’t jaded by the war.”
Hiltz, 20, of La Verne, Calif., was killed June 28 when a bomb exploded in Baghdad. He was assigned to Fort Carson, Colo., and attended Citrus College before joining the Army in February 2006.
On May 30, his parents picked him up at the airport.
“Deep into the drive home there was a quiet period and I looked over and saw he was smiling,” his father said. “I said ‘What’s that for?’ And he said ‘I love living in U.S.’ “
When he was about to return to Iraq, Cory and his father talked about the war. “He was not happy about it, but he said ‘Dad, I made a commitment to my country. I don’t want to go back. But I made a commitment and I’m going to fulfill my obligation.’ Ten days later he was dead.”
A good student, a good friend, a good soldier. A good son.
That’s how friends and family describe Army Private First Class Cory Hiltz of La Verne, one of five American soldiers killed Thursday when a bomb exploded in Baghdad. He was 20. A lifelong resident, Cory was a graduate of Lutheran High School of La Verne. He attended Citrus College before joining the Army in February 2006. His father, a retired Pasadena deputy police chief, said what people will remember most about Cory is his heart.
Lutheran High Administrator Diana Beckett said news of Cory’s death has the school reeling.
“He was a great kid,” she said. “Just special. Everybody liked him.”
Cory and the four others killed were based with the Army’s 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division in Fort Carson, Colo.
Also killed were Sergeant Shin W. Kim, 23, of Fullerton; Sergeant Michael J. Martinez, 24, of Chula Vista; Sergeant Giann C. Joya Mendoza of North Hollywood; and Specialist Dustin L. Workman II, 19, of Greenwood, Neb.
A bunkmate of Cory’s in Iraq was one of many leaving messages of condolence on his MySpace page.
“Hiltz,” he wrote, “man you are sorely missed, the room is like a graveyard. They packed up all of your stuff and now I have your empty bed as a reminder.
“We all miss you here, you made us laugh so much. Keep Workman out of trouble up there. You are deeply missed.”
Lutheran High has about 180 students. It was even smaller when Cory attended. It gave Beckett and the rest of the staff the chance to really get to know to know Cory and his family, which she describes as wonderful and caring. She says he leaves behind many broken hearts.
“He came in just before he went to Iraq just to say goodbye,” Beckett said. “There were hugs all around and he said `See you in a little while.”‘ In addition to his father, Cory is survived by his mother, Debra, and sister, Kayla.