ENID, Okla. — Family members of an Enid native killed in March 2008 while patrolling streets in southern Baghdad were special guests of President Donald Trump Tuesday night when he delivered the State of the Union address in Washington, D.C.
Nearly a thousand people turned out Wednesday at Oklahoma Bible Academy to pay their final respects to Army Staff Sgt. Chris Hake, while thousands more lined Enid streets waving American flags.The two-hour funeral was a combination honor for Hake for serving his country and comfort to his family, said the Rev. Garvie Schmidt, of Enid Mennonite Brethren Church.Hake was killed March 24 while on patrol in southern Baghdad March 23. Three other soldiers died along with him. They were assigned to 4th Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, of Fort Stewart, Ga.Bagpipes played mournfully as the coffin was taken into and out of OBA, where Hake graduated in 2000, followed by an estimated 100 family members, including his wife, Kelli, and son, Gage, and his parents.“Chris was committed to a cause, a mission. He gave 110 percent of himself to the cause that the people of Iraq and all people will be free,” Schmidt said.He said one of Hake’s favorite sayings was” “God hasn’t given you more than you can bear.”Throughout the service, which was attended by Gov. Brad Henry, friends talked about the type of person Hake was and his service to his country.Several speakers talked about e-mails Hake sent to his family from Iraq. In them, he talked about the sacrifices he had to make in his Army career and his belief in God, saying he felt closer to God than ever before. In one e-mail, he said he was more at peace than he had ever been in his life.The Rev. Larry Eschlinger, who performed Chris and Kelli Hake’s marriage ceremony, talked of how obvious it was they were in love. He also talked about Hake’s dedication and his service.“We walk freer, the Iraqi people walk freer, the world is freer because of men like Chris,” he said.Dallas Caldwell, former OBA headmaster, said Hake’s class was “fun-loving.” He joked about some of the things Hake and his friends did that they shouldn’t have.“Chris was guilty, but he was always clean. He knew just when to get out. He was the guy who watched the door,” Caldwell said.“They were a fun group. They were lighthearted, that’s how they lived life,” he said. “I loved that guy. He’s my hero.”In a letter to Gage Hake, Hake’s year-old son, Caldwell said, “God weeps with us. God knows this is a wicked and hateful place.”Hake will be buried Tuesday in Arlington National Cemetery.He is the second Enid man killed in Iraq. Army Staff Sgt. Clint Storey was killed Aug. 4, 2006, and buried in Enid.
Kelli Hake, widow of Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Hake, and the couple’s son, Gage, who was only a year old when his father died, currently live in Stillwater. They were invited along with nine others to attend the president’s third State of the Union address, according to a press release from the White House.
The release states the death of Hake, who was killed along with three other soldiers, was the result of a bomb supplied by Qasem Soleimani, an Iranian major general killed in a targeted U.S. drone strike Jan. 3 that was approved by Trump.
Residents of Enid and the surrounding area came this past week to show their support for a fallen soldier. And they did it with grace and sympathy and respect. No family should have to go through what the Hakes have gone through, or the Storeys went through two years ago, or any fallen soldier’s family has to go through. However, this reality of life can be made easier to bear when a community does the kinds of things Enid has done the last several days. The show of patriotism and support for Staff Sgt. Chris Hake and his family by local residents was outstanding. When word got out about the Topeka, Kan., group planning to protest the funeral, local residents organized a counter demonstration to show support for the Hake family. It was inspiring to see streets of Enid lined with U.S. flags and people saluting or with hands over their hearts. It was good to see schoolchildren paying their respects and learning a lesson about the sacrifices of freedom. It was emotional to see the look of appreciation on the faces of family members as they saw the tribute being paid to Hake. Enid can stand as an example to the entire country about how to pay respect to and show support for a soldier’s family. It is important the community continue to support the Hake family and the Storey family. We know there will be more showings of support in May when Hake’s name is added to the Wall of Honor, a memorial at Woodring Regional Airport that honors Oklahoma service members who have died on duty. Enid is a military community that understands the importance of showing support for those who are tasked with defending our freedom. No matter the people’s political views or views about the war, all stood together to pay tribute to this ultimate sacrifice and to show gratitude for military members and their families.
“While on patrol, Sgt. Hake’s Bradley fighting vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb supplied by the Iranian terrorist leader Qasem Soleimani. Kelli and Gage directly suffered from Soleimani’s campaign to kill and maim U.S. service members," the White House release states. "Last month, President Donald J. Trump ordered the killing of Soleimani as he was once again trying to initiate attacks on American service members."
Kelli Hake appeared on CNN a few weeks back, to say that she found justice in the Jan. 3 killing of Iran military leader Qasem Soleimani.
During the State of the Union, Trump looked up at Kelli and Gage and reminded the nation about the targeted drone strike he ordered in January that killed Soleimani, then Iran's top military commander.
Hake was home with 1-year-old Gage in the spring of 2008 when she was informed that her husband had been killed during his second tour of duty in Iraq.
"It was exactly six o’clock in the morning," Hake told CNN during the recent interview. "There was a knock at my door. I was very confused at the time. … It was the day after Easter Sunday, so it was a Monday, and I went to go answer it. My son was still in his bed sleeping, and I wasn’t tall enough to look through the peephole so I looked through the window … by the front of my house and realized that it was men in uniform, and automatically I went over and opened the door … and wasn’t quite comprehending exactly what they were there for until they asked me if I was Mrs. Christopher Michael Hake and when, when they said that, I realized what they were asking, and I said, 'No,' and shut the door. And … they knocked again … took me a few minutes to gather myself. I opened back the door, and, they proceeded to tell me that he had been hit by a roadside bomb and did not make it … It was the hardest day of my life."
Trump has said he ordered the strike against Soleimani, who had just arrived at the airport in Baghdad, Iraq, on Jan. 3, 2020, because he was actively plotting attacks on U.S. service members in the region.
Hake was a 2000 graduate of Oklahoma Bible Academy. He was assigned to 4th Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, of Fort Stewart, Ga.
Kelli Hake remembers her husband, Chris, rolling around on the floor playing with their son, Gage. She also remembers how considerate he was to call her from Iraq, sometimes three or four times a day.“He was thoughtful, and he was the funniest guy in the world,” she said, of the man she first met through family.Now, she and Gage will have to go on without husband and father. Army Staff Sgt. Chris Hake, 26, was killed March 23 in southern Baghdad when his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb. Three other soldiers also died in the attack.His funeral will be 3:30 p.m. today at Oklahoma Bible Academy. Burial will be 3 p.m. Tuesday in Arlington National Cemetery.“He wanted to make sure Gage was roughhoused and played with. I have videos of him rolling around and playing on the ground,” she said.Kelli will miss having her husband there as Gage grows up. Gage, who was born Oct. 14, 2006, doesn’t understand now. He doesn’t understand the concept of mommy and daddy, she said, but he is happy to have family members around to play with. He is a good boy.“He sleeps well, acts good. He’s just a great kid,” she said.She now lives near Fort Stewart, Ga., where Chris was stationed as a member of the 3rd Infantry Division before returning to Iraq for his second tour. Kelli, a Stillwater native, said she probably will move back to Oklahoma after she sells their house.“I had no idea the type of support we have received,” she said. “Going down (Monday), and all the flags and everyone standing out there ... It’s something you would never dream about. It was amazing how many people were out there, I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it myself.”Hake’s body was returned to Enid Monday, and residents turned out in large numbers, lining the route from Enid Woodring Regional Airport to Ladusau-Evans Funeral Home.“I just want to say thank you to everyone who has done so much for us. Things people brought to the house, food, everything people have done,” she said.Chris’ father, Pete, is tired, but said he has been in good spirits, although Monday was emotional.“I’m a little tired, but I’m OK,” he said.Seeing his son’s casket arrive at Woodring and touching it made everything real. Pete Hake said the moment was pretty emotional for everyone.“We were doing pretty good the week before. (Monday) was hard, the casket made it all real,” he said.“We’re just overwhelmed by the support from the town of Enid and people who keep bringing food over and money. It just never stops,” he said. “We’re about to buy another refrigerator to keep the food in.”He talked with Army representatives Monday who said they were surprised at the turnout and support they saw along the route from the airport to the funeral home.“You know 90 percent of them don’t know Chris. They’re just turning out because they believe in our soldiers,” Pete said. “When you see all this it just soaks us up. It makes me more proud of Chris and more appreciative of the town — old guys saluting — it makes you real appreciative of the people of Enid.”Around the Square people were lined up shoulder-to-shoulder for several blocks. Pete said he hoped there would be a lot of people, but he never imagined the turnout.“When the plane rolled up yesterday, everyone broke down. Having him here and touching the casket ... The ride to town was about the same with all the people out,” he said. “You can’t believe that many people would come out to honor your son and your husband.”Gage recognizes pictures of his father and occasionally comments. Those moments are the hardest, Pete said.Chris was supposed to come home for 18 days in July for a mid-tour break, and he wanted to spend time with Kelli and Gage.Recently, he became interested in building things, and he wanted to get some wood and see what he could build. First, would be a big toy box for Gage. The couple, who have been married three years, had no plans for the end of his deployment.There are about 20 family members in town, and Pete expects about 70 for the funeral. About 20 will attend the burial at Arlington National Cemetery.
Killed with Hake were Pvt. George Delgado, 21, Palmdale, Calif.; Pfc. Andrew J. Habsieger, 22, Festus, Mo.; and Spc. Jose A. Rubio Hernandez, 24, of Mission, Texas.
A funeral for Hake was held at OBA in 2008, and he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va. His name is on the Woodring Wall of Honor at Enid Woodring Regional Airport.
As I sit thinking of March 24, 2008, I am reminded of the day we received that life-changing phone call the morning after Easter Sunday at 6:30 a.m. We learned of the death of our son, Staff Sgt. Chris Hake. As difficult as this year has been for us, the headline for the top story of 2008 could have read “People of the City of Enid Pour Out Their Hearts for Hake Family in Honor of Chris.” Within minutes of receiving news of Chris’ death, people began descending on our home. People would lay flowers at the base of a new flag only hours old put up in Chris’ honor. We never knew there were so many people who cared for us. Food arriving all day for over a week. We have a basket with hundreds of sympathy cards that still bring comfort when read. We had friends collecting and giving donations so we could go to Arlington. We had anonymous donations from Grace World Outreach we still don’t know who gave. Our employers, Northcutts and Kenwood Manor, were more than generous and our co-workers so supportive. Our church, Enid Mennonite Brethren and so many others were so helpful to us. We have never felt so loved and cared for. Who were all these loving and caring people? Within hours a cemetery plot was offered. Ladusau-Evans offered help, food, facilities and use of vehicles by virtually every church in town. Who were all these loving people ? Then came the day to face reality as Chris was flown to Enid Woodring Regional Airport. This was the most difficult day we had yet faced. What did we see as we left the airport but the wonderful and loving people of Enid standing along the highway, along Grand and Willow streets and all the way to the funeral home with flags and signs; a military salute or their hand over their hearts. We saw school children holding flags and banners, policemen, firemen, highway patrolmen, sheriffs and deputies, people from all walks of life, all ages, veterans from all branches of the military, Blue Star moms and motorcycle groups leading the way. It felt like a tunnel of flags embracing and comforting us. Hundreds and hundreds of people coming together for one reason ... to honor Chris and support his family because they all realize through the loss of a hometown hero ... that freedom isn’t free. Within a few days we saw the same support on the funeral route to OBA. Many of our out-of-town family members were in awe of the people of Enid. The Army representatives were amazed as well. One family member said, “I can say one thing ... and that is ... Enid, Oklahoma is one patriotic community.” Our family members were given free hotel rooms and I don’t believe any of them paid for a meal while eating out in Enid. The faculty, staff, students and families of OBA went out of their way to prepare the school for the funeral and offered great support to us. Where did all this abounding love come from? Who were all these loving and caring people? I have lived in Enid for 25 years and didn’t know how special this town I live in was. Enid may not be that big and some would say not real exciting. Some would even say Enid is not that great a place to live. I would beg to differ. I wouldn’t trade the care and concern the people of Enid have for each other for any other place in the world. We may not be a world-class city, but we have world-class people that are there for each other when needed. Yes, the Hake family suffered a loss this year, we lost someone so very precious to us. We just want to thank the community for honoring him for his service and for believing in the mission that Chris gave his life for freedom. I was asked the question, “What will you do if your other two sons want to join the military?” My answer was, and still is, I would be very proud of them. As a matter of fact, one son just signed his name and held up his hand and pledged his life for his country. Am I scared of that decision? Of course, but any feeling of fear is masked by immense pride I have in my sons. They know all so well someone paid a price for their freedom and feel an obligation to play their part in keeping our country free. Enid, we just want to say thank you. Thank you Enid and all the wonderful people who call this place home. You took a grief-stricken family and poured out your love and concern in a way that is unimaginable. Where did all these loving and caring people come from? They came from Enid, Oklahoma! We will never forget what you have done for us this past year. Be proud to be a part of the Enid community. You are a great and loving people. God bless each and every one of you. Submitted by Jill Hake and the Hake family.