The family of Army Sgt. Channing “Bo” Hicks, who was killed last week in Afghanistan, is numb.
Bo’s father, Chan Hicks Sr., can barely speak, and his sister Brinna’s eyes fill with tears as her uncle Dennis talks about Bo’s Army service.
Bo’s great grandmother, Faye, and grandmother, Kaye, sit quietly in Kaye’s living room as somber visitors come and go to give their condolences. Around the room are photos of Bo, as a young football player, in a tuxedo and in his fatigues.
Bo Hicks, 24, and Spc. Joseph A. Richardson of Booneville, Ark., 23, died Friday in Paktika province. The soldiers were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, at Fort Riley, Kansas.
Department of Defense officials said the men died from injuries they suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit with an improvised explosive device and small arms fire.
“They were in a very hostile place this time,” Dennis Hicks said of Bo’s most recent deployment which began in May. He had also served two tours in Iraq, and decided to re-enlist and deploy again to provide for his children, Wesley, 6, and Delilah, 7. He was set to come home in February.
As he talks, Dennis holds a framed photo of his nephew, and a small American flag patch that fell off his uniform during one of his trips home.
“He volunteered to go again,” Dennis said. “His dad asked him why. And he told his dad, ‘If I don’t do it, who will?’ I wish he didn’t have that much courage, because maybe we’d still have him here.”
Bo knew from age 13 that he’d join the Army. Right after his graduation from Greer High School in 2006, while other grads headed to Myrtle Beach, Bo was thinking about boot camp. He left for basic training 8 days after graduation.
Dennis, who served in the U.S. Air Force, told Bo to consider the Air Force instead.
“I told him, ‘If you’re a Marine or in the Army, you’re going to fight,’” Dennis said. “And he said, ‘I’m going into the Army,’ and that was that. He loved his country and what America stands for.”
Bo gave 100 percent to the military, his family says. He made time for family and friends when he came home, and in 2008, he came home for five days from a deployment to attend his grandfather’s funeral. But even at home, he worried about his brothers still overseas.
“He was up for promotion again,” Dennis said. “He had people under him, at 23 years old. It shows how fast he grew up as a man. He was fighting for people he didn’t even know. He told me once, ‘It’s hard to stand up for these people — they don’t even want your help.’ The world is in turmoil, and he believed he was doing the right thing to fix that turmoil. And we have to accept it because Bo took a lot of pride in what he did. But it does break my heart. He was my hero way before all of this happened.”
“He was all our hero,” said his younger brother, John, a senior at Greer High.
When Bo came home, he enjoyed hunting, fishing and playing video games. His grandmother said he grew up playing in the woods. He loved his family and friends, his neighbors and the Greer community.
“There’s people who live 100 years and couldn’t spread the joy and love he did in his 24 years,” Chan Hicks said.
The family praises the love, respect and professionalism they’ve received from the Army since Bo’s death. They plan to start a foundation to honor and remember Bo, and work with Wounded Warriors and Friends of the Fallen.
The family also extends its deepest sympathies to the family of Spc. Richardson, also killed in Friday’s attack.
“I hope people will say a little prayer for the other soldier’s family,” Dennis said. “Say a prayer for his brothers still over there. I wish they all could come home tonight.”
Arrangements have not been made for Bo’s funeral. But a Massachusetts man, the father of a soldier who served with Bo, wants to make an effort to attend.
Pete Fitzpatrick said his son, Sean, asked that he attend Bo’s funeral. Pete had the opportunity to meet Bo, and knew that Bo, Sean and the others in the unit grew close as they worked, played and fought together.
“I don’t know Bo’s family, but he seemed like the kind of guy you’d be proud to have as a son,” Pete Fitzpatrick said. “I’m happy to have had the opportunity to have met him. My son said he was the kind of guy that if you had to go into a fight, you’d want him there with you. He was a young guy who had so much to offer, and now he’s gone. You gotta ask yourself, what for?”
Fitzpatrick recalled Bo’s quiet but confident demeanor.
Chan Hicks said that quiet side of his son would have made him shun the attention the family has gotten during the last few days.
“He wouldn’t have liked all the attention,” Dennis said. “But I want people not to forget him and what he stood for. A lot of people are going to miss him, for sure. He’ll never be gone in spirit or in our hearts.”