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On Campaign Trail, a Single Shot

Hoe joined the formation, the two-man intelligence team behind him. The soldiers began to walk toward the clinic on a street that ran along an open field. On the other side of the field, about 250 yards away, stood a mosque.

The shot rang out from a building near the mosque. Hoe was wearing a bulletproof vest, but the bullet hit him in the exposed crease behind his left shoulder. It traveled through both lungs and punctured his aorta before exiting his body through his right armpit. He died almost instantly, doctors later concluded.

Soldiers from C Company's 1st Platoon work to get out the vote on the west side of Mosul's al-Whada neighborhood. (Steve Fainaru -- The Washington Post)

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"Ow," Hoe seemed to say as he fell.

"In my opinion, it was an ambush initiated by a sniper," Siglock said. The sniper probably identified Hoe as the platoon leader by his proximity to his radio operator, Pfc. Jerome Roettgers, 23, of Cincinnati, who was trailing Hoe with a two-foot antenna.

As Hoe lay in the street, Siglock relayed the unthinkable to Myers, the platoon sergeant: "2-7, this is 2-1, 2-6 is down."

Hoe's radio call sign was Tiger 2-6.

The message bludgeoned the platoon.

Fire From the Mosque

In the brief moment of shock, at least five insurgents opened up on them. The shots came from across the field; muzzle flashes were seen coming from the tall minaret of the mosque.

The platoon scrambled to return fire and rescue its leader. Roettgers was the first to reach Hoe, but the platoon leader "was waterlogged" from a day spent patrolling in the rain and standing in the Stryker's open hatch, he said. Roettgers could barely budge him.

Roettgers was joined by Pfc. Robert Layton, 23, of Buckley, Wash., and the two began to pull Hoe off the street. But they couldn't find cover. Both were bracing to be shot when Pfc. Darrin Gooding, 21, of Annapolis stepped directly between them and the insurgents and began firing back. Gooding had been just a few feet from the Stryker when the ambush occurred. He could have taken cover behind it, but instead he moved into the fusillade to protect the three men.

"That was probably one of the most comforting sights I've ever seen in my life, reaching down for Lieutenant Hoe and as I look up, I see Gooding backing down on us, shells flying," Layton said.

The men got Hoe into an alley, which the platoon then sealed off with a Stryker. Myers and the platoon medic, Spec. Rusty "Doc" Mauney, took over. Mauney gave Hoe two quick "rescue breaths" and took his pulse. Hoe had none. Mauney thought he might have missed it because of the noise from the gunfire, but the firing stopped and Hoe's condition was the same.

Hoe was dead, but his men refused to believe it.

They loaded him into the Stryker and drove to the combat support hospital about seven miles away. The 21-ton trucks raced 60 mph through the streets of Mosul, fishtailing around corners, air horns blasting.

Inside the lead vehicle, Mauney frantically performed chest compressions while Myers gave Hoe mouth-to-mouth. "I was covered in his blood," Myers recalled somberly. "We were doing the compressions, and every time there would be something coming out of something and hitting me in the face. There was swelling in his chest area; the blood was pooling up in his chest. We turned him on his side to get the fluid out of his lungs, like you'd do when somebody is drowning. A large volume of blood came out at that point."

"Don't give up!" Myers shouted at Hoe. "Don't you [expletive] quit on me!"

Mauney and Myers helped carry Hoe into the emergency room. A doctor walked over to Myers to see if he too had been wounded. When the doctor learned that Myers was covered in Hoe's blood, he took out a white rag and tenderly wiped off his face, "like I was some kid who had candy all over him," Myers said.

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