GI’s death in Iraq unites faithful at home in prayer
Pfc. Coleman Hinkefent had already fainted once when a few soldiers began to hassle him about faking his illness to shirk work.
"So he got mad and tried to work again," said his mother, Belinda, in a blog post. "Sometime after that, he passed out again."
Hinkefent, who was stationed in Iraq, was flown to a hospital in Homburg, Germany, on Dec. 10 after he became very ill, officials said. He was diagnosed with acute leukemia, a fast-acting form of cancer in the blood and bone marrow, family members said.
Hinkefent, 19, died Saturday. His family, from Coweta, Okla., was at his bedside.
"It just tears at me," said friend Spc. Kyle Hall. "He had so many people praying for him. He was such a good kid. He probably never did anything wrong in his entire life."
Hall befriended Hinkefent during training in Baumholder. At a barbecue at Hall’s home, Hall remembered Hinkefent eyeing his combat awards display.
"He looked at them and said, ‘This is what I want,’" Hall said.
Assigned to the 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, of the 1st Armored Division, Hinkefent deployed to Iraq in early April.
"He was ecstatic," Hall said. "Happy and proud to serve his country."
But in early December, he began to vomit and feel sore, his mother wrote on the blog Rooting for Coleman, which also acted as a conduit for people to send prayer messages to Hinkefent after he got sick. He passed out several times, and medics struggled to hydrate him. He was quickly flown to the Homburg hospital, which is recognized for its treatment of leukemia. His parents greeted him there, but the reunion was marred by the news that Hinkefent was gravely ill.
While in the hospital, Hinkefent’s liver began to fail. Though his situation was bleak, people from thousands of miles away offered their heartfelt prayers to his parents, Belinda and Eric.
"In some of Eric’s comments he sent me, he talked about reading those prayers to Coleman," fellow church member Win Noren told the Oklahoman newspaper, "I think it was a very powerful way to be involved."
Eric Hinkefent was stroking his son’s hair when his heart stopped about 6:20 a.m. Saturday. He wrote, that day, that his son had no regrets.
"Coleman has forced a multitude to re-evaluate their relationships — with their family, their friends, and with God," Eric Hinkefent wrote. "But that was Coleman — he had a joy that attracted and changed and challenged people wherever he went. His suffering has done the same.
"In the end, few men do anything that really matters — and fewer still finish well. I know a man who managed both."
He also wrote about what made his son join the Army. Hinkefent was 17, and a friend, Pfc. Cody Carver, had just enlisted. Hinkefent sat across from his father and said, "Dad, he did something." He then asked his father to go with him to the recruiter the next day.
"Some might say that the Army gave me back a man," his father wrote, "But I dare say I was looking at one that day."
A memorial service will be held for Hinkefent on Dec. 31 at 10 a.m. in Chapel One.