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MILITARY DEATHS

Army Pfc. Hannah L. McKinney, 20, Redlands; Killed in Humvee Accident

September 24, 2006|Vernon Loeb | Times Staff Writer

When Hannah L. McKinney reenlisted in the Army early last year after giving birth to a son, she told her father in Redlands that the military would never send a young mother to Iraq.

But in November, with her son only 1 year old, McKinney shipped out to Iraq as a private first class with the 542nd Maintenance Company, 44th Corps Support Battalion based at Ft. Lewis, Wash. She was a clerk responsible for ordering spare parts.

The 20-year-old was killed the night of Sept. 4 after she left a guard tower at a logistics base in Taji, north of Baghdad, to go to the latrine and was run over by a Humvee. After the accident, she lay gravely injured on a darkened perimeter road.

A tank crew discovered her an hour and 45 minutes later, and rushed her to a hospital, said her father, Matt Heavrin, 46, a Los Angeles County power plant operator.

Heavrin said the Army still hasn't told him whether his daughter was alive when she reached the hospital. "But I trust the Army is going to come out with a thorough investigation in the end," he said.

Heavrin said his daughter spent most of her time in Iraq on guard duty because there were more clerks than needed.

Her husband, Chris McKinney, 21, a fellow private first class at Ft. Lewis, said he has been told the Humvee driver was intoxicated and is in custody, facing disciplinary action.

Hannah McKinney graduated from Redlands High School in 2003. She was an avid reader with an interest in fashion, having been accepted to the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles.

But she needed money for college and saw the Army as a means of earning it. Ironically, she was due to begin receiving payments from an insurance trust -- after being hit by a car when she was 12 -- when she turned 18 later that year.

Ksenia Koudriachova, a high school friend, still can't believe McKinney joined the Army and wound up in Iraq.

"We talked about makeup and magazines and modeling," said Koudriachova, a student at Cal State San Bernardino. "She was such a girly girl. She even told me, 'Can you believe me, holding a gun?' "

McKinney left active duty and entered the Army Reserve in 2004 after she became pregnant with her son, Todd Avery Gunterman. She and the boy's father -- a fellow soldier who never acknowledged parental responsibility -- were not married, and their relationship ended. McKinney reenlisted early last year, believing her son would be best served by the pay and benefits she could earn in the Army.

In October, she married Chris McKinney in a civil service at Ft. Lewis. The two had known each other at Redlands High and were reunited in the Army. The following month, she left for a year in Iraq, leaving her son with her parents in Redlands.

"Every time I talked to her, from day one until the last time I talked to her, she was as depressed as she could get," said Chris McKinney, who is soon to leave the Army on a medical discharge. "She just wanted to be back home with her family and Todd."

Her parents, now caring for her son, had been planning a religious wedding at Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland for Chris and Hannah over the holidays after her scheduled return from Iraq in November. Instead, they held her funeral there Sept. 14.

In addition to her father, McKinney is survived by her mother, Barbara Heavrin, a registered nurse for the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department; two brothers, Matthew, a senior at the U.S. Naval Academy, and Philip, who completed Marine Corps boot camp last week; and a sister, Ruth, a senior at Redlands High.

vernon.loeb@latimes.com

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