Four years ago, Pfc. David H. Sharrett II of Oakton died in Iraq, the victim of “friendly fire.” Today, his father, Dave Sharrett Sr., a former English teacher at Langley High School, is still meeting with military officials and wondering if justice will ever be done.
Here’s a closer look at four of the central figures in the story -- the fallen soldier himself, and the three men who have continued to try to unearth how and why he was killed.
Pfc. David H. Sharrett II
David H. Sharrett II was born in Woodstock, Va., in June 1980, but grew up in Fairfax County, mostly in the Oakton area, where he attended Oakton Elementary School, Cooper Intermediate School and then Oakton High School. He loved football, like his father who also played high school ball, and in his senior year at Oakton, he started at defensive end for a team that had the best record in school history at that point, 10-2, and went to the regional title game. He was a member of the Oakton class of 1999.
Sharrett was on the verge of going to college and playing more football. But as he was about to leave, he realized he wasn’t ready for the freedom and told his father, “I’d waste your money.” Instead, he took a variety of bartending and doorman jobs around Fairfax County, working at Fast Eddie’s in Fairfax, Outback in Vienna, Champps in Reston, Glory Days in Fairfax and the popular eCiti club in Tysons Corner, where he met his future wife, Heather Shell of Alexandria.
Also like his father, Sharrett was a voracious reader of both history and literature, his friends and family said. In classes at Northern Virginia Community College, he spoke frequently and was much appreciated by his teachers, his friend Daniella Urrutia said. One night at Fast Eddie’s, he sat outside the front door reading “Hamlet,” his longtime friend Spencer Maestas said. Sharrett and Maestas were required to forcibly eject some coke-snorting bikers inside, which they did. Then Sharrett promptly went back to reading “Hamlet” outside the front door.
“He could talk to anybody about anything,” Maestas said. “From all outward appearances, he was just a big ugly meathead. But he was definitely an intelligent and sensitive man.”
He thought often about joining the military, and twice he joined but then backed out, his father said. Dave Sharrett Sr. was opposed to his son becoming a soldier. “I didn’t want him to get killed,” his father said. But his son“wanted to be able to tell his grandchildren he fought in the war on terror,” and combined with his interest in history, the younger Sharrett would not be deterred.
He met Shell in May 2005, and spoke often to her about enlisting. “I was just supportive,” she said. She too feared the worst, but said, “I didn’t want him to let his fears hold him back.”
At age 26, he finally joined the Army for good in September 2006, planning on a three-year tour, then returning to get his degree and become a history teacher. He passed basic training, then came home and married Shell at the Fairfax County courthouse in January 2007. The couple moved to Fort Campbell, Ky., where Sharrett was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, and the private first class was deployed to Iraq in September 2007. He was killed four months later, near Balad, at age 27.
David H. Sharrett Sr.
David Sharrett Sr., 57, is the second of three boys, all of whom entered careers in public service. His older brother, Allan, is a circuit court judge in southern Virginia. His younger brother, Michael, is a Presbyterian pastor in Lynchburg, and David was a high school English and literature teacher for 30 years.
Like his oldest son, David Sharrett grew up in Fairfax County, and graduated from Langley High School in 1973 after playing linebacker on the football team and running the 220 and 440 sprints for the track team. He won a football scholarship to Colorado State University, and graduated with an English degree in 1978.
Sharrett returned to Virginia and began teaching English first in Strasburg, then outside Harrisonburg, before being hired at Langley in 1982. By then, he had already married and divorced his first wife and had a young son: Dave II (“never a junior, never my inferior,” Dave Sr. said) whom everyone knew as “Bean.” A regular around Langley as a small boy, Bean Sharrett often accompanied his father as he chaperoned spring break trips for Langley students on Caribbean cruises or to Europe.
“All of the kids knew him as a little boy,” Dave Sharrett Sr. said. “They adopted him and loved him as if he was their child. I always talked about him. He was part of their universe too.”
In 1984, Dave Sharrett Sr. met his second wife, Vicki, and they had two more boys: Chris, now 22, and Brooks, now 16. Though Dave II was much older than his brothers, he worked hard to bond with them and they looked up to him, his friends and family said.
Dave Sharrett Sr. was a hugely popular teacher at Langley, and then at Chantilly High School after he transferred there in 1999. His gregarious nature, his love of rock music and football, his passion for both literary icons and musicians such as Neil Young and Bob Dylan, was refreshing and deeply memorable, his former students said.
In 2008, Dave Sharrett Sr. made plans to retire and move to the Lynchburg area, where his younger brother lived. He and Vicki were in the process of renovating their townhouse on Jermantown Road in Oakton when they received the bad news from Iraq. They moved to Forest, Va., a suburb of Lynchburg, later in 2008.
Douglas Kimme, 55, was born and raised in Chicago, and after he graduated high school, he entered the Air Force and became a paratrooper. His father served in World War II and his grandfather was an infantryman in World War I. While he was stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base, he began dating a local woman and in October 1980 they had a son, Daniel. The boy lived with his mother in Arkansas, while his father moved back to Chicago after leaving the Air Force.
Doug Kimme moved to Hawaii and tried various jobs, but eventually entered the police academy and became an officer in the Honolulu Police Department in 1989. His son pinned his badge on Kimme at his graduation, lived with him in Honolulu for a time, then moved back to Arkansas with his mother.
In 1996, Doug Kimme moved back to the Midwest to be closer to his family and his son, and took a job as a patrol officer and weapons trainer with the Champaign Police Department. A year later, 17-year-old Danny left his mother in Arkansas and moved in with his father. He worked a variety of jobs, got in some small scrapes, but was going nowhere. “He never gave me a hard time,” Doug Kimme said. “He just wasn’t motivated. He kinda ran out of options. I told him, ‘The military’s your last option.’”
Danny Kimme and Dave Sharrett II both enlisted in the Army in the fall of 2006, were both assigned to the 101st Airborne Division after basic training, and were deployed to Iraq together in September 2007. After their deaths, Danny’s body was returned to Arkansas, where Doug Kimme said he first heard rumors of friendly fire at the funeral home.
Doug Kimme found Dave Sharrett Sr. through the online obituary for Pfc. Sharrett, and they began an e-mail and phone relationship. As a veteran cop, Kimme also began contacting other members of the 101st, sometimes sharing information with Sharrett in Virginia. When Doug Kimme received the second AR 15-6 investigation into the episode in May 2008, he was appalled by many things. He felt an infantry unit wasn’t trained to make arrests, as the mission demanded. He knew the well-armed soldiers should never have formed a circle around their target, creating the possibility of shooting each other. Trained in tactical operations, he realized the soldiers should not have approached the thicket without knowing definitively who or what was inside – instead, they should have waited and called out the suspects, as police do with barricaded subjects. And he knew the lieutenant should never have fled the battlefield.
Kimme’s analysis strongly influenced Dave Sharrett Sr.’s view of the episode, and Kimme’s contacts in the military allowed him to covertly obtain the first video recordings of the firefight in 2009. He and Sharrett are still in regular contact.
James Gordon Meek
When James Gordon Meek was a teenager growing up in McLean, he grew particularly fond of an English teacher at Langley High School named Dave Sharrett, and Sharrett’s young son “Bean.” Meek even spent time with the father and son outside of school, and has a picture of the boy wearing a hat they have just bought him at an Army surplus store.
The two lost contact as Meek went off to college at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, and Meek began a career in journalism. But they reunited at a Langley reunion in the fall of 2007. At the reunion, Sharrett updated students on the progress of little “Bean.” He’d grown into a power-lifting, “bad ass” defensive lineman on a very successful Oakton team, tended bar around Fairfax County for a few years, and now was an infantryman in the U.S. Army, headed soon for Iraq.
Sharrett told Meek he wasn’t happy about the prospect of his son on the front lines of “the surge.” Meek informed his former teacher that he was now a reporter covering national security for the New York Daily News who had already embedded with the Army in Afghanistan. He offered to share whatever information he could about the movements of the 101st Airborne Division, and the two traded e-mail addresses. On the day that Dave Sharrett II died, Meek had e-mailed his father an article from Newsweek about “Operation Hood Harvest,” with a cautionary note about the casualties, the danger.
Meek attended the funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. And when Dave Sharrett Sr. began asking about the circumstances of the death, he turned to Meek, and the two met regularly at Rocco’s Italian Restaurant in McLean to discuss ways to approach the Army and obtain more information.
As Sharrett learned more, but got no satisfaction from the Army, Meek counseled against going to the media, saying it would be counterproductive. But in February 2009, after Sharrett learned of the existence of video recordings of the firefight, Meek used his sources to obtain the videos. And when the Army still refused to discipline Lt. Timothy Hanson for his actions, Meek jumped in and wrote several stories spotlighting the Army’s seeming intransigence in dealing with both Hanson and the Sharretts.
Meek then filed a series of Freedom of Information Act requests throughout the military, ultimately uncovering statements from the Army helicopter pilots about Hanson’s actions and learning of the existence of more video recordings. He accompanied Dave Sharrett to a Pentagon briefing in 2010, where the new recordings were released, and then helped obtain the autopsy report of Dave Sharrett II, which helped persuade the Army to launch a third investigation.
“No Gold Star family should ever have to endure being treated that way,” Meek said. “They left his son behind on the battlefield. He wasn’t going to let that stand, and I wasn’t going to let the Army leave the father behind.”
Meek, 43, left the Daily News last year and now works as a senior counterterrorism investigator for the House Homeland Security Committee.