The father of an Army soldier from Oakton, killed by his own lieutenant in Iraq during a friendly fire combat incident, met with the secretary of the Army on Thursday and came away dissatisfied and unsure whether he would continue to seek answers and accountability after four years.
Pfc. David H. Sharrett II, 27, died near Balad, Iraq, in January 2008. His family was told that Sharrett was a victim of fratricide. But they were not initially told that 1st Lt. Timothy R. Hanson hadn’t informed anyone of the shooting or that he fled the battlefield unwounded a short time later without assisting in the search for Sharrett. The Army also did not disclose that there were numerous overhead video recordings of the battle.
When the soldier’s father, former Fairfax County school teacher David H. Sharrett Sr., uncovered Hanson’s actions, then realized that Hanson’s commanders knew of his actions and had not disciplined him, he began pursuing full truth and accountability. Meanwhile, Hanson was promoted to captain.
A third Army investigation of the entire incident, released in the summer of 2011, finally criticized Hanson’s post-battle actions harshly but did not disclose what measures, if any, the Army had taken against him. On Thursday, Dave Sharrett Sr., his wife and youngest son all met with Army Secretary John McHugh for 45 minutes to ask what was being done to Hanson and his immediate superiors, Maj. Michael Loveall and Lt. Col. Robert McCarthy.
They were told that Hanson still works for the Army and that Loveall and McCarthy will not be held responsible for ignoring Hanson’s actions, Sharrett said.
He said McHugh told him that “there wasn’t any clear evidence they could use in a criminal investigation to hold them accountable.”
McHugh apologized for the Army’s failure to disclose the full circumstances of the firefight on Jan. 16, 2008, and its aftermath, according to Sharrett.
With the help of other soldiers, a New York Daily News reporter and a father of another fallen soldier, Sharrett Sr. obtained overhead videos that showed Hanson fleeing the battlefield on a helicopter at 6:05 a.m. while Sharrett lay bleeding in the dark until he was found at 6:35 a.m. and flown out at 6:50 a.m. He was pronounced dead at 7:50 a.m.
Although an Army general told The Washington Post in January that Hanson was no longer in the Army, McHugh said he was still “being paid by the Army,” Sharrett said.
Army spokesman George Wright said the Sharretts’ meeting with McHugh was “a private conversation” and he could not discuss details of what was said.
“It was more of the Army choosing not to address the really hard questions of what happened,” Sharrett said. Now, he said, he was considering leaving the story to the news media “to pick up the ball where I have chosen to put it down. And I need to do that for my family.”