Thursday, May 03, 2007

Michael Hullender remembered

The bride-to-be flew in from Alaska to help plan the service. But instead of floating down the aisle in white, Kyle Harper will be cloaked in black. A widow before she wed.

Sgt. Michael Hullender, her beloved, was dead at 29.

sister as they made plans to welcome him home for the last time.

"They were a perfect match for each other," Ren Hullender said. "This week was supposed to be their wedding announcement in the paper. Instead it is the obituary. It is very tragic."

Hullender was killed when he stepped on a bomb in Iraq. The medic was helping fallen soldiers when he died. The U.S. Army will honor him with two posthumous medals at his service Sunday at 2 p.m.

"He is receiving a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart," said Maj. Dennis Hilpiper, a mortuary case manager with the U.S. Army based in Alexandria, Va.

A career educator, Ren Hullender didn't want his son to join the military until he had a degree to fall back on. "I wanted him to finish his college, but I supported his enlistment once I understood what he wanted to do," he said.

Michael had spent much of his childhood as the family peacemaker and protector. He wanted to do the same for his country. He joined the U.S. Army in 1998 to become a ranger at Fort Benning and a medic. He won several medals for his bravery and service.

"I am proud of what he did," Hullender said.

Hullender grew up in the shadow of his father in Gwinnett County Public Schools. Ren, the retired fine arts department chair of North Gwinnett High School, was a single parent with three kids — Michael and two older sisters. Michael went to school wherever his dad worked. Once, Ren Hullender even had him as a student.

"He didn't have the highest grade in the class, but he was a great kid," Ren Hullender said "He was very respectful. At school, we were always able to say I love you to each other. We had that kind of bond.''

Ren and his son flew hot air balloons together. They hunted together. And whenever he came home, they always had a date at Longhorn Steakhouse, just the two of them.

Michael attended West Georgia College for two years after he graduated from Norcross High School in 1996. He heeded his father's advice and still worked on his degree online while he was in the Army. He was a few credits shy of his degree when he was killed.

Michael Hullender will receive a military burial with full honors.

Visitation will be from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday at Flanigan Funeral Home in Buford. The service will be Sunday at Sugar Hill United Methodist Church.

From the Atlanta Journal Constitution

Related Link:
Michael R. Hullender dies of injuries from I.E.D.