Pfc. Ray Joseph Hutchinson
United States Army
KIA 07 December 2003
On a clear, crisp February morning, a new member was added to the long
and distinguished list of the world's valiant heroes.  It was on 09 Feb 1983,
that Ray Joseph Hutchinson was born in Houston, Texas.  His bloodline can
be traced back to Scottish, English, and German ancestors, many of whom
fought in great wars long ago.  His grandfather was a sergeant in the Army
Infantry and fought in the Philippines in WWII.  His father was in the Navy on a
destroyer in the Viet Nam War.  Ray Joseph's arrival was a true blessing for
his mother, Deborah, who was an artist; his father, Michael, who was a bank
auditor; and his four-year-old brother, Lee Andrew (whom it was later
discovered possessed an I.Q. of 160!).

Ray Joseph's mother knew that from the first moment she held her new baby
son, that he was marked for greatness that would be seen in a destiny set by
God.  And so it was. From the start, it was evident that Ray Joseph had an
eagerness to learn about everything he saw.  He watched those around him,
paid attention, listened, and soaked up knowledge with great focus.  Ray
Joseph responded well to all of his family and friends.  He was cooperative,
unselfish, eager, and full of curiosity and spontaneous humor.  Those who
knew him as a little child will tell you that he had comprehension about his
surroundings that surpassed other children his own age.  He was kind,
thoughtful, fair-minded, and attentive.

Ray Joseph's hand/eye coordination was exceptional for a young child.  He
was walking by time he was ten months old.  Before he was a year old, he
could catch and throw a ball accurately.  He could climb two flights of stairs
before he could walk, and he never fell down.  By the time he turned four, he
could already ride a bicycle without training wheels.  His great ability to tackle
the aspects of forward motion continued to display itself in his acquired skill at
a young age to hockey skate on ice, or to roller blade on concrete with ease
and speed.  Travel to other areas of the country with his family, or with his
grandparents, allowed Ray Joseph to broaden his physical abilities into
swimming with skill, jet-skiing, surfing, water skiing, snow skiing, ice skating
and snow-boarding, as well as rock-climbing in the mountains of Texas,
Vermont, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah and the beaches, lakes, and gulf
coast regions of Texas, and Florida.  As an adolescent, Ray Joseph also
studied traditional Korean Martial Arts, specializing in an ancient style called
Kuk Sool Won, in which he competed with great success.

Ray Joseph lived with his mother, father, and brother in League City, a
thriving community on the southeast side of Houston, Texas.  His home was
beside Magnolia Creek and was flanked by huge oak trees and maples, and
hiking trails that lead into the woods around his neighborhood.  It was here,
on Lazy Hollow Drive, that his family, neighbors, and friends watched Ray
Joseph as he was developing into the great man and warrior he was to
become.  Each day for Ray Joseph was an adventure. It was in these young
years of his life that Ray Joseph asked to be baptized to seal his position for
eternity with the Good Lord.  His Faith would sustain him in the years to come.
Ray Joseph's nature was easy and calm. He was so generous with his smile,
humor, laughter, and encouragement with those around him whether they
were friends, coworkers, or strangers.  Ray Joseph brought many of his
friends home to his house where he knew they would always be welcome to
spend time or to share a meal.  His mother, an artist, painted the walls of his
home with murals, and Ray Joseph was always giving tours of his home to
each new friend he made.

Along with Ray Joseph's athletic skills, he also was drawn to the world of fine
arts.  He loved to go to live performances in the theater district of downtown
Houston.  He also enjoyed going to concerts of his favorite bands whenever
he could.  He loved rock, swing, heavy medal, rap, classical, country,
Christian, and patriotic music. Ray Joseph loved films-drama, biographical, or
comedy--and his favorite films were always great stories of epic adventures
and heroism.  Most cherished was "Braveheart."  He was greatly influenced by
the life and story of Sir William Wallace.  Later, he studied Latin in high school
because it was spoken in this film in several scenes.

Ray Joseph learned to play the saxophone, which was his favorite instrument,
and competed in district solo competitions in the state of Texas.  Marching in
the band from the age of twelve until his junior year in high school, he easily
participated in group efforts that required skill and cooperation for success.  
Because of his marching skills, he was appointed the position of "squad
leader" so that he could teach other new members of his school band how to
march.  Even though it could be a real trial to teach others to march, he
enjoyed working with everybody who crossed his path.  This served him well
when he later became a soldier. After attending Creekside Junior High, Ray
Joseph began his four years at Clear Creek High School.  It was here that he
became the school photographer for his school newspaper, "The HiLife".  His
photographs always contained sensitivity, and  he skillfully captured the
moment with his photographic abilities.  One photograph he took in particular
is of the reflection of a soldier's countenance in the black marble of the
Vietnam War Memorial, as the soldier stands with his head down.  The names
etched in the black marble seem to float over the image of the soldier paying
his respects to the fallen ones on the memorial.  This photograph, taken by
Ray Joseph, is prophetic in nature since he would soon be among those
names for another war to come.

During his Senior year at Clear Creek High School, Ray Joseph was selected
to become a member of PALS (Peer Assistance and Leadership).  Members
of this organization are selected carefully by their peers and the faculty,
because they represent the finest and best at the high school.  PALS
members go to other schools and help teach children about coping with peer
pressure and becoming successful in all their endeavors.  Ray Joseph worked
with fifth and sixth graders each week in other school districts, answering their
questions, participating in physical fitness programs with these students, and
helping to guide them to success.  The children loved him and his arrival in
the classroom was always a celebration.  During these years, Ray Joseph
worked at the Texas Rock Gym, where he taught the skill of climbing. He also
worked at a sporting goods store for outdoor activities called "Sun and Ski",
and as a checker at a grocery store. With a host of friends, Ray Joseph also
was in the cast of the senior play, "Crazy for You".  He enjoyed being on the
stage of his school, singing, dancing, and making everyone laugh.  It was also
his senior year that he and four of his close buddies won the annual Talent
Show.  They all did an amazing choreographed version of Nsync's "Gotta Be
Me", which was so entertaining that they were asked to repeat the act!  They
received a standing ovation for both performances.  The Senior Prom
followed, and then graduation in 2001.  



Ray Joseph did well on his SAT scores, so he had no problem getting into a
university of his choice---Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos,
Texas. This university is in the "hill country" of Texas up by Austin.  He
entered into college life, dormitory living, and becoming a member of a
Fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi.  Ray Joseph continued on with his studies,
completing his first year of college.  During his first year at SWT, Ray Joseph
awoke one morning in his dormitory to see the horror of September 11, 2001,
on the television screen.  He sat speechless as the events played out on that
fateful day when so many were killed by the cowardly acts of terrorism.  
Something inside Ray Joseph awakened as he watched so many innocent
lives taken, and the need to become a part of the defense of his country was
born in his heart and mind.  After much prayer and great consideration, Ray
Joseph made the decision to join the ranks of the Army Infantry, where he felt
he could accomplish the most for his country. He enlisted at the end of his first
year in college, in May, 2002.  He wanted to be a part of the fight for freedom,
and he wanted to make sure that he was with the best.  

So in the summer of 2002, Ray Joseph joined the Army and began the
preparation for the training ahead.  He knew that the timing was right in his life
to devote himself to something bigger than he was, and to be a part of serving
and protecting his country that he loved so well. On 30 Aug 2002, Ray Joseph
left for boot camp and infantry training at Ft. Benning, Georgia.  He had
prepared himself well for the rigors of PT by training in the heat and humidity
of Houston for several weeks before he left for Ft. Benning.  He met all the
requirements to leave for boot camp as a Private First Class. He was ready
for whatever the drill sergeants had in mind.  The challenge and discipline
required to achieve goals appealed to Ray Joseph.  But even more, he was
drawn to the idea of becoming a part of a fighting team.  He understood and
loved the brotherhood of battle buddies.

During his training at Ft. Benning, he became a squad leader and later a
platoon leader.  As graduation from advanced infantry training drew close,
PFC Hutchinson was nominated to participate in the "Soldier of the Cycle"
competition.  He accepted the nomination, considering it a great honor to
represent his company, and became "Hutch" to his buddies.  On 17 Dec
2002, Hutch graduated as Distinguished Honor Graduate: the "Soldier of the
Cycle".  He received the Army Achievement Medal, and went immediately into
jump school where he got his "wings".   He said that jumping was one of the
most exciting things he had done, and he loved every minute of it.  Since he
had graduated first in his class, he was granted his choice of service.  Without
hesitation, Hutch chose to become a part of the elite fighting force Ft.
Campbell, Kentucky--the 101st Airborne (Air Assault).  He arrived there in
early February of 2003, to discover a short time later that he would be
deployed to Iraq for the war ahead. Right before deployment,  Hutch's parents
traveled from Texas to Ft. Campbell so that they could spend time together
and say goodbye.  Hutch's mother gave him a laminated card on which she
had printed three scriptures:

Romans 13:12---The night is nearly over; The day is almost here! Put aside
darkness and put on the armor of light.  Clothe yourself with Jesus.   
2nd Timothy 1:7---God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power and
Love.
John 14:27---Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be  afraid.

Hutch placed that card from his mother in his uniform pocket.  They stayed
with him in his possession the rest of his time on this earth. So it was, in the
early morning hours of 8 Mar 2003, that Hutch and the other members of the
2nd Battalion of the 101st Screaming Eagles, left the United States of America
to go to the other side of the world to free the country of Iraq from the cruel
regime of Saddam Hussein, and to fight for freedom for those people, as well
as to protect the freedoms we cherish in America.  Each soldier was about to
discover their hidden strengths, valiant courage, grim determination, and true
heroism that would rise up and carry them through the most difficult time of
their lives.  Hutch was about to begin the last great contribution he would
make in this world to his country, his battle buddies, his family, the people of
Iraq, and to his obedience to the Good Lord---the sacrifice of his very life for
all.  What greater gift can a man give than his life's blood in his effort to
protect and save others? There is no higher calling.

Hutch was there in Kuwait at Camp New York.  He watched Patriot missiles
shoot down the enemy Scuds in the sky, as the warning sirens screamed day
and night.  He was there when the helicopters commenced the assault of the
101st deep into Iraq.  He felt the wind, the burning sand, the weight of the
MOLLE packs, the miles of marching, the endless hours without sleep, the
weeks without showers, the days with few rations, the unbearable heat, and
unrelenting sun, and the constant attack from hidden and treacherous
enemies in a strange desert land.  He smelled death, saw death all around,
and kept on going.  He slept in trenches, and holes dug in the sand, and
watched each sunrise and each sunset with a determination to perform at the
highest level to get the job done.  During these days and weeks, Hutch
maintained his humor and encouraged those around him.  He wrote in his
journal, "As difficult as it is to be here, when I look around at the faces of the
children in Iraq, I know why we are here!" Hutch and his battle buddies moved
up into the country of Iraq, fighting, clearing buildings, schools, hospitals, and
homes of enemy fighters and their caches of weapons.  The work was
dangerous, difficult, exhausting, and endless.  Each day brought success and
victory.  Bridges were taken, buildings were secured, the enemy was on the
run, and the forward motion of the brave men of the 2/502 who fought beside
Hutch was relentless.  Hundreds of missions were completed with success,
and the progress of the work at hand was swift and efficient.  These difficult
days drew Hutch and the soldiers with whom he served closer together as a
fighting unit.  Hutch was always ready to smile and offer words of
encouragement.  Finding something to make someone laugh was one of his
greatest gifts to others.  Hutch was there for those around him, and
understood the unspoken bond of brotherhood that only a soldier can know.   

Into and through the desert, villages, and places that seem to have no name,
the 2/502 moved forward.  At An Najaf,  bridges were taken.  At Karbala,
schools were cleared and taken, weapon caches were found and the heat
took it's toll.  It was here that Hutch and another soldier stood over the body of
their sergeant who had suffered a heat stroke.  Hutch stood with his weapon
firing, in view of the enemy so that a medic could administer CPR to save the
sergeant's life.  Later, after returning to the U.S., this sergeant told Hutch's
family: "I'm a married man with two sons.  I am here today to be with my wife
and sons because of what Hutch did for me!"   Anytime Hutch was told he had
done something outstanding, his response always was, "I was only doing my
job."   The work continued with no rest, no showers, limited rations, low water,
heat, danger all around, but he had the dedication to perform at the highest
level.  Finally the 2/502 reached Baghdad where Hutch and the rest were
greeted with pits of oil fires, gutted enemy tanks, dead bodies of Republican
Guard, and mine fields all around.  The time in Baghdad and the work
required was arduous, and it was there that the plan to move further north
became a reality.   So the trip to Mosul commenced.  Hutch and the rest
loaded into Chinooks and Blackhawks, and trucks, listening to what may or
may not have been celebratory fire in the surrounding areas because of a
partial restoration of power in the city of Baghdad.  

By now Hutch was one of the M240B gunners for his platoon, and repeatedly
qualified "Expert" on the range.  He carried the heavy weapon
everywhere---even on foot marches--and never complained.  In fact, he would
often tell other soldiers in a foot march who complained or lagged, "If me and
my skinny butt can carry this weapon and still smile, then you can carry
yours!"   Hutch was 6' 2" tall, blonde, lean, and very strong.  He weighed
about 152 lbs.,  most of which was muscle.  All those years of rock-climbing,
and all that good P.T. paid off.  He looked forward to any type of competition
during P.T. and made sure to keep his scores at the top.  This was something
he did from Basic training until the last day he was here.  He told his parents
in a phone call home that it would be the Infantry who captured Sadaam
Hussein because he said the Infantry gets the job done.  But most of all, he
looked forward to each one of his days as he did the work he was trained to
do, and work he had to learn to do as he went along.  He was a warrior, a
poet, a friend, a magnificent son, a loving brother to his only sibling as well as
to the men with whom he served, a man of God who truly loved the Lord, and
a gift to all who knew him because he always lifted those around him to a
higher level.  His smile was like his name---like a ray of sunshine.  

After his death, among his personal possessions was found a piece of paper
on which he wrote:   
Hugs and kisses and tears that glisten
come from the families as they listen
to their young men tell of a foreign land
that they must go to and free men from an evil hand
Hunger and poverty that must be changed
these Warriors move to oust Sadaam Hussein   
These men who act and ask nothing in return
put their lives on the line to help a country turn
from oppression, tyranny, and a government of lies,
to opportunity, freedom, and a chance for better lives.   
These valiant young men of America's youth
Bust down the barriers to show the people the truth
of how life should be lived in the world today
to have a life that's free is the American way.             

Ten minutes past local noon on 07 Dec 2003, the Good Lord took Hutch
Home in an instant.  Though he was about to be granted a two-week leave to
come home to be with his critically ill grandmother, whom he dearly loved,
Hutch told his parents in a phone call that he did not have the heart to bump
another soldier off the emergency leave plane.  He told his parents he would
wait until the next plane to come home for his grandmother.  He was sent on a
mission after that call, and it became his last time to obey orders as a good
soldier always does.   Returning from that mission, in the last vehicle of a
convoy, Hutch left this world and stood in the presence of the Lord, when an
improvised explosive device was detonated by the enemy.  In spite of this,
Hutch stands in eternal victory and it can truly be said that, "The war is over,
and a soldier is Home."   He more than performed his duty. He lifted the spirits
of those who were discouraged, he was an expert gunner, a fearless
infantryman, and he touched the hearts of those around him with his strength,
his humor, his dedication, his loyalty, his goodness, his encouragement, his
efforts to maintain the highest standards, his Faith in the Lord, and finally his
selflessness to the point of sacrificing his life for the freedom of the oppressed
and the continued freedom of his beloved America.  Just as he had predicted,
exactly seven days after his death, the Infantry captured Sadaam Hussein.   

In the last conversation he had with his mother right before his final mission,  
Hutch told her, "I never worry about getting hurt, or dying.  I know that God
walks with me.  I love you.....I'll be home soon..."   And all of his family,
including his grandmother, and thousands more saw him for the last time as
he was laid to rest on 16 Dec 03, in Houston, Texas, beneath the American
Flag.
"Oh, my son!  What an honor to be your mother...."

SPC Ray Joseph Hutchinson   

101st Airborne Screaming Eagles  2/502   

Killed in Action   December 7, 2003  Iraq

~  A TRUE HERO RESTS IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD~

Semper Fi
Robert (Gunny) Hiles

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