About this story

Here are some notes on the sources behind “The Last Heavy Footfalls of Doc Hullender”:

The first sentence refers to the biblical story of the Fall of Man, from Genesis chapter 3.

The Fertile Crescent of southwestern Asia is one of the first places wheat was grown.

Babylon was a major city on the Euphrates River in what is now southern Iraq.

The material from the death scene is based on my interviews with several people who were there the day Michael Hullender died. They include Captain Joe Whitener, Staff Sergeant Paul Shirey, Corporal Jason Holden, Sergeant First Class Lee Daniels, and Sergeant First Class Kristopher Rick.

Michael’s fiancée, Kyle Harper, provided the details about the letter and the son’s name.

The captain with the bracelets is Craig Sink. The detail about the friend buying the rusty Jeep comes from Sergeant Tim Wood. His fiancee’s old boyfriend is Andy Morrison. I interviewed all of them in Alaska.

The two men I know of who got tattoos in Michael’s honor are former Army medics Denton Livensparger and Patrick “Cass” Hamilton. I interviewed them.

I witnessed the cloudy afternoon when he was buried, and I saw his father standing under the half-raised flag. I also have a photograph of this, with the family situated as described in the story.

Chad Vincent’s account of becoming a Ranger is corroborated by the book Airborne Rangers, by Alan M. and Frieda W. Landau.

Much of the running scene comes from Chad, his roommate at the time, who said Michael used to run every day after work. His physical dimensions and date of birth are listed in an Army document provided by Michael’s father, Ren Hullender. Chad confirmed the mile-time standards; so did Sergeant First Class Rob Wood, another Ranger who was once Michael’s boss.

Military documents confirm Michael was a private between April 4 and October 3, 2003.

Chad said ten Miller Lites was a typical night. One Miller Lite has 96 calories, so ten would contain 960 calories. See the calculation at www.healthdiscovery.net/links/calculators/calorie_calculator.htm.

The food list comes from several sources. Tim Wood mentioned the eighteen-inch pizza and the breakfast foods; Denton Livensparger mentioned the hot peppers. Chad and several others talked about Michael’s legendary eating habits.

Chad talked about the wrestling matches. Ren Hullender showed me Michael’s journal.

Many of Michael’s friends knew of Mikey Smash. Chad witnessed the time he stood on the pool table. Tim Wood is among those who can attest to Michael’s penchant for taking larger women home. He heard Michael say, “No, dude, she’s totally hot.”

Chad told me about the POW tattoo; he has an identical one. Michael used to complain to Rob Wood about his sciatic nerve. Chad talked about the Chinook incident. Rob Wood told the story of Michael turning white.

Chad said Michael was 45 seconds off the pace. He was the one who introduced Michael to Social Distortion; he supplied the detail about the portable CD player. Many of Michael’s friends were aware that "Ball and Chain" was among Michael’s favorite songs.

The Backpack section is based on interviews with Michael’s father and sisters.

The scenario of the possible plane crash was described by Civil Air Patrol squadron commander Will Hargrove.

Cindy Malmo corroborated the details of the separation.

Ren said college is where Michael learned to drink. Michael’s grades come from his college transcript, a copy of which I reviewed.

Ren told me about Robert E. Lee and showed me the books.

Cindy can confirm the details of her life and the circumstances of Michael’s decision to join the Army.

Ren still has Michael’s Bible.

The Cain and Abel story comes from Genesis 4.

Captain Craig Sink, a physician’s assistant who worked with Michael, was among those who talked with me about what medics are allowed to do. He says a cricothyroidotomy is no longer standard procedure in the Army; however, it was when Michael learned it. Rob Wood and Denton Livensparger discussed this topic as well, including the Live Tissue Training.

Notes on the Rangers and the Swamp Fox can be found at www.soc.mil/75thrr/75thrrhist.html. The standing orders are here: www.soc.mil/75thrr/75thrrorders.html.

Rob Wood and Chad Vincent talked about Ranger School and Michael’s difficulty getting in.

I saw the firing scorecard that showed how Michael hit thirty-eight of forty shots.

Wilkins was Cindy’s father. She told me about him.

Ren showed me that journal entry.

I reviewed the documents showing the Medical Badge and the Infantryman Badge.

Material in the last two paragraphs of that section comes from Rob Wood, who was Michael’s boss at the time.

The reconstruction of Michael’s participation in Objective Rhino relies heavily my on interviews with Rob Wood, who was there with him. I consulted a secret map of Objective Rhino that was in Michael’s possession. Numerous news articles available contain basic details of the operation.

Chad remembers hearing people call Michael Heavy Drop.

Several paratroopers, including Captain Sink and Sergeant Daniels, can confirm the details about landing physics and procedure and common ways the jump can go bad.

Details about Delta Force’s fight that night can be found in Seymour Hersh’s story in the New Yorker, an abstract of which can be read here: www.newyorker.com/archive/2001/11/12/011112fa_FACT.

With regard to the night of the DUI, Ren says Michael told him about giving the girls a ride home and taking the alternate route.

Other details come from the police report.

Rob Wood was Michael’s boss at the time; he was the one who had to dismiss him from the Ranger Regiment. Chad Vincent is also aware of what happened.

Three sources with knowledge of the situation confirmed the positive test for cocaine.

Chad and Tim Wood talked about how Michael always got up for work even after nights of heavy drinking.

Among those who spoke of Michael’s unusually good training and work ethic: Kristopher Rick, Denton Livensparger, Craig Sink. They are also aware of the Expert Field Medical Badge and its arcane requirements.

I saw the document describing the sixty-eight students going on to earn the badge.

Most of the rest of this section comes from my extended interviews with Chad, with a few exceptions.

“Trousers dropped” could refer to any number of stories about Michael, especially the one where he impersonated a fictional sister. Denton Livensparger knows of this; so does Tim Wood, among others.

“Cougars flattered” refers to the time Michael was with Tim Wood and began hitting on a couple of fiftyish women in a bar.

I heard the “cameras defiled” story from Kyle Harper; it involved Chad Vincent, a borrowed camera and—whoops, one more time—dropped trousers.

Tim Wood told me about the blackened popcorn and the overpaid dancers (he says there was a time when Michael received nine consecutive lap dances at a strip club).

Kyle told the story of their meeting.

I saw the mountains myself.

Kyle told the story of their first date, and about her medical conditions. I drove down the Seward Highway and saw the natural masterpieces.

Kyle confirmed everything in the rest of this section. She showed me the notes he wrote and the package he sent.

Back to Genesis 4 for the Cain story.

A Mormon named David Patten is the one who claimed he saw Cain in Tennessee. I haven’t read the book where this claim is made, but there’s a fair bit of discussion about it on websites, including this one: http://store.fairlds.org/prod/p1555176828.html

The Man in the Moon has sometimes been said to be Cain. See www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Man-in-the-Moon.

Holden and Daniels told me about the first explosion and its consequences, because they were there when it happened. Whitener gave me a secondhand account.

Whitener was among those around the conference table, as was Lieutenant Colonel Craig Whiteside. I have a photograph from the meeting.

Whiteside told me about the Sunni-Shia reconciliation and the previous sectarian violence. Numerous articles about this are available online. This Associated Press dispatch from March 27, 2007, is one example:

“In other violence Tuesday suspected Shiite militants broke into a Sunni mosque in Iskandariyah, 30 miles south of Baghdad, about 4 a.m. and planted explosives that damaged the gate and a fence, police said.

“Clashes broke out about an hour later, leaving four Sunni militants dead and one Shiite militant wounded, police said. Authorities had imposed a vehicle ban on Monday after similar attacks.

“The fighting was followed by a mortar attack on a nearby Shiite mosque. The rounds landed in a courtyard and did not damage the mosque, although a pedestrian was wounded.

“A Shiite man and his three sons also were wounded when a mortar round struck their house in Haswa, about three miles east of Iskandariyah, police said.

“Streets were empty and shops in both towns were shuttered.

“It was the fourth day in a row that mosques were targeted and clashes erupted in the religiously mixed area. The violence started on Sunday when suspected Shiite militants attacked a Sunni mosque in Haswa, in apparent retaliation for a suicide truck bombing against a Shiite mosque in the city that killed 11 people on Saturday.”

Whiteside and Whitener told me about Al Qaeda and the fish farms; Whiteside told me about the lack of clean water and the high unemployment rate.

Whiteside has photos of Michael from that day; I have copies.

For details on the Personal Security Detachment, I spoke with Shirey and Sergeant First Class Ken Pajinag, who helped to assemble it.

I have a copy of Knight’s letter.

Livensparger told that Hullender never treated the battle wounds of an American soldier; so did Shirey, Pajinag or Sink. Apparently he did treat at least one wounded Iraqi soldier and also stitched up an American soldier after a minor accidental knife injury.

Most of what’s in the next ten paragraphs comes from Shirey and Whitener. Shirey told me about the radio transmissions and Whitener confirmed it.

The Dog Company medic is Holden. Daniels and Whitener confirmed that the wounded man, Specialist Olin Bingham, turned out all right.

Back to Genesis, 2:10 for the Euphrates; 4:9 for Cain’s question.

Several medics have estimated the gear weight at 100 pounds or higher. Denton Livensparger would be one; Rob Wood another, Tim Wood a third.

Holden said it was at least 100 degrees that day.

Here’s how I got the “every 40 seconds” figure. According to the Geneva Declaration’s Global Burden of Armed Violence, more than 740,000 people die per year as a result of conflict-related and homicidal violence. There are 60 seconds in a minute; 3,600 in an hour; 86,400 in a day. Multiply that by 365 for the whole year and  you get 31,536,000. That’s how many seconds there are in a year. Divide that figure by 740,000 and you get 42.616, which I rounded to 40.

—Thomas Lake