First Lt. Robert J. Hess followed in his father’s footsteps in joining the Army. Col. Robert Hess piloted Black Hawk helicopters, and so did his son, who was killed this week in Afghanistan, the Pentagon said Friday.
Hess, 26, of Fairfax, and Capt. Aaron R. Blanchard, 32, of Selah, Wash., died Tuesday as a result of enemy fire in Pul-E-Alam, the Pentagon said. Both were assigned to the 2nd Aviation Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, based at Fort Drum in New York.
“He was a natural leader and great officer,” Hess’s family said in a statement. “He loved the Army. He got to die living his dream.”
Hess had numerous awards and decorations, including a Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal, according to a news release from Fort Drum.
Hess joined the Army in November 2010 and completed his pilot training at Fort Rucker in Alabama, according to the news release. He arrived at Fort Drum this past November and was deployed to Afghanistan with his unit in April.
Hess attended Fairfax’s Robinson Secondary School, where he was a swimmer. He attended Old Dominion University, where he served in Army ROTC. His family remembered him as a loving man with a wonderful sense of humor. Hess’s family lived in Hawaii, Alabama and Germany during his childhood.
“He had a lot of friends. When he was killed and we notified everybody, the phone was just ringing off the hook,” said Ruth Phillips, his grandmother. “He had such a nice personality and was very helpful.”
Hess is survived by his mother, father and a brother.