PFC. Kyle Hockenberry: For Those I love I will sacrifice

Eric Sof

For those I love, I will sacrifice iconic photo from the MEDEVAC helicopter

Tattoo inscription For Those I love I will sacrifice has become an icon of the one generation. The story of Private First Class Kyle Hockenberry and his tattoo has become a story about sacrifice and love.

For Those I love I will sacrifice

Today, tattoos are very popular among soldiers, and through history, they are old as war is. Lots of soldiers get inked, with various motifs, military memes, girlfriend’s names, or various guns, skulls, or dragons adorning their skin. Some get something less ornate. The hero of this story had “For those I love I will sacrifice” stitched into his flesh. He had no idea how prescient he was.

Pfc. Kyle Hockenberry: For Those I love I will sacrifice
PFC Kyle Hockenberry, who was injured in an improvised explosive device attack, is treated by flight medic Cpl. Amanda Mosher while being transported by medevac helicopter to the Role 3 hospital at Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan on June 15, 2011. The tattoo inscription For Those I love I will sacrifice made this photo iconic (Photo: XY)

It has become an iconic photo of the Post-9/11 generation of warriors. It made headlines in 2011 after Star and Stripes published an article about MEDEVAC pilots who have only one hour to get wounded troops to medical facilities. The story went viral arguably because of this photo. The powerful photo was of a critically wounded Private First Class Kyle Hockenberry who always wanted to serve in the U.S. Army.

He joined the service in October 2010 only four months after graduating from Frontier High School outside Marietta, Ohio. A member of the National Honor Society, he loves motorcycles and hunting. After completing basic training, he returned home and spoke to local schoolchildren about the military. He shipped out to Afghanistan in February for a year-long tour with the 4th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Infantry Regiment, 1st Heavy Combat Brigade, from Fort Riley, Kansas.

The IED blast

Hockenberry was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division’s 4th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment “Pale Riders”. The next month they were already on their way to Afghanistan. His first assignment was at FOB Pasab (Forward Operating Base Pasab) outside of Haji Rammudin.

His life would change on June 15, 2011, when an IED exploded at few meters far away from Pfc. Hockenberry. In the horrific blast, he lost both of his legs above the knee and his left arm above the elbow. The blast would also take the life of his friend, Spc. Nick Hensley. He was immediately rushed to the medical facility at Kandahar Air Field.

While en route to Kandahar Air Field, Pfc. Kyle Hockenberry was in life-threatening condition, his heart stopped three times and each time the crew medics pulled him from the brink. He entered a coma as he reached the hospital.

PFC Kyle Hockenberry today
Photo by Janelle Patterson Kyle Hockenberry, center, and his wife Ashley, right, are filmed Friday by Paul Freedman, left, during the making of the documentary, “World’s Most Dangerous Paper Route.” (Photo: XY)

From Afghanistan, he was rushed to Germany and then to San Antonio. The whole travel took nine days, and upon arrival in San Antonio, Kyle received additional surgeries and long-lasting rehabilitation.

Pfc. Kyle Hockenberry posing in front of his iconic photo and tattoo For Those I love, I will sacrifice
Pfc. Kyle Hockenberry posing in front of the poster with his picture and tattoo inscription For those I love I will sacrifice (Photo: XY)

Laura Rouch, the author of the article was on-site with the crew of Dustoff 59 for her article. Saving Hockenberry was no easy feat.

“They began working on him immediately. They started cutting his clothing off and as they’re getting tourniquets on, they cut away his uniform and this tattoo emerged. I saw the tattoo and it just reached up and grabbed me.” explained Laura Rauch to the Marietta Times.

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