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Army Capt. John L. Hallett III, 30, Concord; among 4 killed by roadside bomb

The West Point graduate and the others were on a mercy mission to a village in southern Afghanistan that was suffering a cholera outbreak.

October 25, 2009|Martha Groves

John L. Hallett III was an inveterate organizer who, according to his wife, Lisa, "always left the house with pen and paper, ready to make a list."

As a high school senior, he put a stiff challenge at the top of his to-dos: Get into the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Thanks to a congressional appointment, he scratched that one off his list.

A happy-go-lucky kid who did magic tricks and always had a smile, Hallett was born at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and grew up in Concord, northeast of San Francisco, where he played basketball at St. Agnes Elementary School and water polo at De La Salle High School.

During his final year at West Point, the 6-foot-1 Hallett was captain of the water polo team, where he was "the focal point and the individual that grew their team and made them competitive," said Daniel Sharadin, commissioner of the Collegiate Water Polo Assn. In 2001, Hallett graduated and received his commission, embracing the motto of his class: "Till duty is done."

On Aug. 25, Hallett was among four soldiers killed when a roadside bomb exploded near their vehicle in southern Afghanistan. He was 30.

Hallett was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division at Ft. Lewis, Wash.

Also killed were Capt. Cory J. Jenkins, 30, of Mesa, Ariz.; Sgt. 1st Class Ronald W. Sawyer, 38, of Trenton, Mo.; and Pfc. Dennis M. Williams, 24, of Federal Way, Wash.

Hallett's father, John L. Hallett II, said the four men had gone on a mercy mission to a village suffering a cholera outbreak.

"Knowing my son, he volunteered," the elder Hallett said.

Soon after John Hallett III died, the Army released a statement from his wife, Lisa, who lives in DuPont, Wash.:

"Capt. John Louis Hallett III was an amazing father, devoted and joyful husband, thoughtful son, loving brother and inspiring friend. . . . He would always put the needs of others before his own. He was a patient teacher to our children.

"He had the warmest and most genuine smile. John would always make people laugh by his clever ways and kind humor. . . . John's amazing example and memories will live in and guide his three young children."

In addition to his wife, Hallett is survived by two sons, Jackson, who will be 4 on Dec. 31, and Bryce, who turned 2 in early September, the day before his father was buried at Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Lafayette, Calif. Hallett also is survived by an infant daughter, Heidi, who was born in August and whom he never got to see.

Hallett met his future bride -- two years younger than he -- in elementary school. During spring break in 1996 and 1997, they traveled with a group from St. Agnes Catholic Church to build houses for the poor in Mexico. After the first trip, Hallett told his parents that he had framed houses with "that Lisa Garner" from elementary school and described her as a "real go-getter." Lisa, meanwhile, told her mother that she was going to marry him and "have his red-headed babies," as she recalled.

After he graduated from West Point -- three months before the Sept. 11 attacks -- Hallett reported to Ft. Benning, Ga., for infantry officer basic training. In spring 2002, he reported for duty at Schofield Barracks in Honolulu, where he served as a rifle and scout platoon leader, company executive officer and civil affairs officer. On Valentine's Day 2003, when Lisa was visiting from UC Santa Barbara, he presented her with a Tiffany engagement ring at the top of Diamond Head.

In January 2004, three weeks after their wedding, Hallett shipped out for a 13-month tour of duty in Iraq. He returned to Hawaii in early 2005 and that August reported to Ft. Benning for the "captain's career course," his wife said. They moved in March 2006 to Ft. Polk, La., where he served as a platoon senior observer-controller. In November 2007, he reported to Ft. Lewis, where he was a battalion personnel officer, assistant operations officer and company commander. His unit left for Afghanistan this July.

The captain's father said he cherishes a particular memory that speaks to his son's compassion. When the boy was 5, his father and mother, Wendy, were bickering about something and he said: "Stop. Your behavior is inappropriate."

"That was one of the things we used to say to him," Hallett's father said. "So I asked him: 'Oh, and how is our behavior inappropriate?' " "You're boxing each other's hearts," his son replied.

Accolades have been piling up in an online "guest book" set up in honor of Hallett.

Sgt. Ammon Benedict of Portland, Ore., wrote that he met Hallett in Hawaii, where they were both serving. "He was a born leader, and his men not only respected him, we loved him," Benedict wrote. "He led the way, all the way, every day."

Hallett's leadership abilities came naturally. An old family video shows him grinning as he spearheads a merry march through the living room, his little brothers, Chris, now 27, and Tom, now 24, in tow.

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