‘This was a terrorist’: Tampa Bay area Gold Star father reacts to death of Iran’s top general

Manatee County

PARRISH, Fla. (WFLA) – Next month marks 13 years since Kris Hager’s son Josh was while serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom by an explosive device built in Iran.

“Josh called me six days before he was killed and said, ‘Dad I just called to tell you I love you,” Hager told 8 On Your Side.

Hager said Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani played a role in his son’s death.

“This wasn’t an army general of some note,” Hager said. “This was a terrorist.”

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Defense announced a drone strike north of Baghdad that killed a top Iranian general.

“General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more,” the U.S. Department of Defense said in a statement released Thursday.

Army Staff Sgt. Hager’s deployment in Iraq began in November 2006.

“Seventy plus combat missions in 90 days,” his dad said.

On Feb. 22, 2007, Hager said his son was riding back to base in Ramadi after a night on patrol when the Humvee blew up, killing the 29-year-old Army Ranger.”

“That was the flag that came back with him from Iraq,” Hager said, showing 8 On Your Side the stars and stripes that were draped on his son’s casket.

U.S. military officials told Hager’s father the explosive device, powerful enough to penetrate the Humvee, was an enhanced shaped projectile built in Iran.              

“They knew exactly what blew it up,” he said.

This Gold Star father told 8 On Your Side his mission is to keep his son’s memory alive.

“If we don’t have memories,” Hager said, “we have no gratitude, and if we don’t have gratitude, we have no appreciation. It’s what every Gold Star family wants. You don’t have to thank me. I didn’t do anything, but don’t forget what our soldiers do.”

Hager shared a message for families of soldiers now being deployed to the Middle East.

“Let go of your worry and just surround your deployed people with love, that’s cause somebody may, won’t come back,” he said.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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