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Soldier dies the death she said she feared
Jennifer Marie Hartman, an exuberant Tamaqua High School grad who loved four-wheeling on all-terrain vehicles and all things that go fast, never expected to end up in Iraq.
But she was making the best of it, four years into her five-year commitment to the Army. She signed up right out of high school to get schooling to go into the medical field, said her dad, David Hartman of West Penn Township.
"When she signed up to go for schooling, the gentleman promised she wouldn't go to Iraq," the father said Friday. "If there was any chance in hell that she would go to Iraq, I wouldn't have signed that paper. I guess even the Army lies to get you to sign up."
Jennifer refused to talk to her family about what she was doing in Iraq. Instead, the Army sergeant would change the subject to four- wheeling on all-terrain vehicles -- her biggest passion in life.
"She was into her four-wheeler -- that's what she lived for," her dad said. "I think she would rather have died on her four-wheeler than over there."
Indeed, Jennifer's MySpace profile listed "Going really fast car, bike, quad, JetSki" as the way she'd like to die.
Her fear? "Getting blown up in Iraq."
On Friday the military confirmed that Jennifer Marie Hartman, 21, was killed on
Sept. 14 in a suicide truck bombing while she was in her barracks at a west Baghdad electrical substation that her unit was guarding. Two other soldiers were killed and another 30 wounded.
"The IED [improvised explosive device] detonated next to the sleeping building of the soldiers' operating base," said Capt. Warren Litherland, rear detachment commander for the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Division. "She was inside the patrol base at the time of the explosion. She was not working at the time of the incident."
Hartman was a cook assigned to the 4th Support Battalion, 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, based in Fort Hood, Texas, but stationed now in west Baghdad. Her company was attached to the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Division, at the time of her death. Hartman is the unit's seventh casualty in Iraq, Litherland said.
The time since the explosion has been horrific for her family, David Hartman said.
He said Army officials came to his door four days ago and told him they believed his daughter had been killed but weren't sure.
"I said, "Do you tell all parents you think their child is dead but you're not sure?"' he said. "For four days we've been sitting here praying to God it wasn't her. We were in tears, not knowing whether we should worry. We were praying it was not the case, but in those days in between we're going crazy. I don't know how to explain it to you."
He said the Army confirmed her identity through records of a previous foot injury.
Speaking haltingly, stopping frequently to compose himself, David Hartman tried to convey who his daughter was.
Jennifer was his first child, and her father said he feared he wouldn't have a son, "so I made her into my little boy."
"I always wanted a boy, so I figured I was going to do it with her," he said. "We did everything together -- fishing, tubing, skiing -- everything I could do with a kid I did with her. She was more of a tomboy. She was tough as a boy."
When she was about 8, he said, he moved his family out of Allentown, where Jennifer was born, to rural West Penn Township to give them a better life outside the city.
There, Jennifer -- who became the oldest of three children -- continued to excel at sports.
Hartman ran on the Tamaqua High School Blue Raiders girls track team from 2000 to 2002. Teammate Danielle Butala recalled Hartman as a "really great athlete. She had a great spirit. She was always a good person."
Hartman entered the Army in July 2003 and was deployed to Iraq in December 2005. Since March, she worked as a food service specialist, the Army said.
Hartman received the Army Service Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Army Achievement Medal and Basic Marksmanship Qualification Badge.
Hartman's remains were flown back to the United States earlier this week for positive identification