MURFREESBORO, TN, US
SPC, CO F, 4TH BN, 101ST AVIATION, FORT CAMPBELL, KY
10/21/2009, WARDAK PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN
At 10:35 p.m. Murfreesboro time on Sept. 29, Specialist Russell Hercules Jr. called his wife, Victoria Hercules, from Afghanistan to wish her a happy birthday. Where he was stationed, it was already nine and a half hours ahead and Sept. 30.
“He was so mad it wasn’t midnight,” said Victoria, who turned 24 on Sept. 30. “I made him promise me he’d be safe.”
She knew her husband would be on a two-day mission and out of contact during that time. Their conversations always ended the same.
“He never said good-bye,” she said. “He always said ‘See you later.'”
Specialist Hercules, 22, died Oct. 1 in Wardak province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using small arms fire. He was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 101st Airborne Division, 159th Combat Aviation Brigade in Fort Campbell.
That same day in Murfreesboro, Victoria heard what she thought was a UPS truck drive into the parking lot of the townhouse apartment complex where she and her two small children live. She was expecting delivery of a birthday gift from her husband. But when she looked up, two military men came to her door instead.
“My heart stopped,” said Victoria during an interview Tuesday at her mother-in-law’s La Vergne home. She hoped they were only going to tell her that her husband was injured.
Cheryl Tipton, Russell’s mother, remembers her son as a funny person, one who was happy all the time. The only time he ever got into trouble was at age 16 when the police took fireworks away from him over the Fourth of July.
“He was not a bad kid. He never gave me any trouble,” she said. “He grew up to be a wonderful adult.”
Hercules grew up in Murfreesboro, attending Mitchell-Neilson and Bradley Elementary schools, then Central Middle School and Blackman High School, where he graduated in 2006. He began talking about joining the military his junior year in high school.
“He had to do a report on the war in Iraq,” said his mother. “That is what got him interested.”
Both of his parents also were in the Army, Tipton a 76V in Materials Staging and Handling at Fort Hood, Texas, and her former husband, Russell Sr., a combat engineer who served in Germany.
Victoria and Specialist Hercules met on a Web site. She was living in Kentucky at the time with her daughter, Cadence Bonham, who is now 3 years old. Victoria helped Russell Hercules move from Kansas to Fort Campbell in October 2008.
Through a telephone connection from the hospital to Afghanistan, Russell Hercules heard his son’s first cry at birth on June 10. The couple got married June 25, 2008, when Specialist Hercules was home on leave. Between June 17 and July 2, he spent time with his family.
“He held the baby mostly,” said his mother. “He didn’t talk about Afghanistan.”
Cheryl Tipton said her son believed in the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan.
“I would give anything in the world to have him back,” she said. “My son was loved by a lot of people. He will be remembered for the soldier he was.”