Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Cory F. Hiltz dies 'of wounds sustained when his unit was attacked in Baghdad by insurgents using improvised explosive devices'

The message Wayne Hiltz left on the answering machine at his Sacramento-area home is quiet and heartbreaking.

"Deb and I are on our way to Southern California to lay our son to rest."

A good student, a good friend, a good soldier. A good son.

That's how friends and family describe Army Pfc. Cory Hiltz of La Verne, one of five American soldiers killed Thursday when a bomb exploded in Baghdad.

He was 20.

A lifelong resident, Cory was a graduate of Lutheran High School of La Verne. He attended Citrus College before joining the Army in February 2006.

His father, a retired Pasadena deputy police chief, said what people will remember most about Cory is his heart.

The elder Hiltz remembers Cory watching a nature show on television when he was a young boy. When a small animal was attacked by a larger one, he began to cry.

"He said `Dad, why is he hurting him? He didn't do anything,"' he said. "We wondered what he would come back (from Iraq) like and he came back with a bigger heart than before. He wasn't jaded by the war."

Cory had been in Iraq for eight months when they extended his tour of duty until January. In return, he received three weeks leave.

On May 30, his parents picked him up at the airport.
"Deep into the drive home there was a quiet period and I looked over and saw he was smiling," his father said. "I said `What's that for?' And he said `I love living in U.S."'

When he was about to return to Iraq, Cory and his father talked about the war.

"He was not happy about it, but he said `Dad, I made a commitment to my country. I don't want to go back. But I made a commitment and I'm going to fulfill my obligation.' Ten days later he was dead."

Lutheran High Administrator Diana Beckett said news of Cory's death has the school reeling.

"He was a great kid," she said. "Just special. Everybody liked him."

Cory and the four others killed were based with the Army's 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division in Fort Carson, Colo.

Also killed were Sgt. Shin W. Kim, 23, of Fullerton; Sgt. Michael J. Martinez, 24, of Chula Vista; Sgt. Giann C. Joya Mendoza of North Hollywood; and Spc. Dustin L. Workman II, 19, of Greenwood, Neb.

A bunkmate of Cory's in Iraq was one of many leaving messages of condolence on his MySpace page.

"Hiltz," he wrote, "man you are sorely missed, the room is like a graveyard. They packed up all of your stuff and now I have your empty bed as a reminder.

"We all miss you here, you made us laugh so much. Keep Workman out of trouble up there. You are deeply missed."

Lutheran High has about 180 students. It was even smaller when Cory attended. It gave Beckett and the rest of the staff the chance to really get to know to know Cory and his family, which she describes as wonderful and caring.

She says he leaves behind many broken hearts.

"He came in just before he went to Iraq just to say goodbye," Beckett said. "There were hugs all around and he said `See you in a little while."'

In addition to his father, Cory is survived by his mother, Debra, and sister, Kayla.

Services will be held at 10 a.m. July 14 at First United Methodist Church in Pasadena.

Burial plans are not yet set, but the Hiltz family wants to bury Cory at Forest Lawn MemorialPark, Covina Hills.

During his leave, Cory and his family spent two weeks visiting La Verne.

"He loved La Verne," his father said, "and the reason for the Covina Hills is it overlooks the Valley, and that's where we want him to be. This is his home."

From the San Gabriel Valley Tribune