Iraq veteran remembers 9/11

Darin Hinman
Iraq veteran Darin Hinman, who is studying at CSU under the post-9/11 G.I. Bill, is one of approximately 200,000 veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. One in 10 Iraq veterans develop PTSD, according to the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command.

On the morning on September 11, 2001, Darin Michael Hinman, 28, was glued to the television in his high school history class. As he watched the second tower fall in New York City, he made a decision that would change his life forever.

“All I remember was George Bush standing in the rubble, saying ‘America, we hear you and the people who did this will hear us soon,’” said Hinman, a mechanical engineering major.

On September 12, 2001, Hinman signed the papers and officially enlisted in the Marine Corps. One week after high school graduation, he was on his way to boot camp.

“9/11 was the final push for him to join the marines,” said Stephanie Carpino, a microbiology major and Hinman’s girlfriend of five months. “He had been contemplating it for a while.”

Hinman was eager to join the military to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps. His grandfather was a U.S. Army Ranger. Needless to say, his parents were less than thrilled with his decision, especially because he is an only child.

After boot camp, Hinman left for his first deployment to Iraq, which lasted a total of six months. During that time, his specialty was avionics. His daily duties consisted of repairing equipment and doing supply runs.

“Basically, I was ‘voluntold’ to go do this and run wherever,” Hinman said.

During his first deployment to Iraq, he was only immersed in actual combat once. His unit drove two Hummers to a site and were about a half hour into their supply run when the first Hummer hit an Improvised Explosive Device (IED).

“It was my first and only direct experience with combat,” Hinman said. “We either killed or repelled the attackers.”

This was a day that Hinman cannot seem to forget. His best friend, who went through school, training and deployment with him, was stuck in the first Hummer.

Right as Hinman ran up to the vehicle, he noticed that his best friend was bleeding heavily from a neck wound. In his neck lay pieces of scrap metal, leftover from the initial explosion.

“I had to watch my best friend die,” Hinman said. His best friend was only 20 years old and left a newborn baby and wife back home in California.

Hinman’s second deployment, also six months in length, was less intense. He stayed on base and never “ventured outside the wire.”

After arriving home, Hinman decided he was done with the military and came to CSU to pursue a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.

Now that he’s back, 9/11 and the war still have a significant impact on Hinman and affects his daily life here in Fort Collins.

“[The war] caused him to be more cautious in the U.S. He is always on edge, looking out for certain things that can spark memories,” Carpino said.

Hinman also suffers from a case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) because of his deployments to Iraq and his experience with 9/11.

According to maketheconnection.net, the symptoms of PTSD can include “feeling upset, having nightmares or flashbacks, feeling numb, depression, trouble sleeping and focusing, and so on.”

As part of his PTSD, he experiences frequent panic attacks that can be set off by the sound of fireworks, cars backfiring, or confrontations. During the attack, Hinman can experience tunnel vision, shaking and a sense of impending doom.

“Violent war movies can also set him off,” Carpino said.

Hinman is being treated for his PTSD by a therapist, but it is very common for veterans to come back with mild to severe cases of PTSD.

According to an article in CNN, “up to 31 percent of soldiers returning from combat in Iraq experience depression or post-traumatic stress disorder that affects their jobs, relationships, or home life.”

“Darin has been taking it better than a lot of people I know,” Carpino said.

Nathan Perrault, a natural resources and recreation tourism major, was also greatly impacted by 9/11. Perrault is an acquaintance of Hinman’s from his days in the Marines.

He served around the same time as Hinman did, but was actually an infantryman. He was deployed once to Iraq and once to Afghanistan, both for seven-month stints.

“I lost four friends in combat and two were from my unit,” Perrault said.

Perrault regularly patrolled during his stay in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He was able to do mounted patrol and presence patrol in Iraq, as well as foot patrol in Afghanistan.

“The Taliban shot at us on base while playing cards,” Perrault recalls. This was only one of many instances where Perrault had confrontations with Afghani soldiers.

Both men were greatly impacted by 9/11 and the war that was started shortly after the terrorist attacks. After the war, they were both able to get their full tuition paid for under the Post 9/11 Bill.

“I don’t regret going, I regret not doing more,” Hinman said, “I don’t want [my best friend’s] death to be in vain.”

Student life beat reporter Amanda Zetah can be reached at news@collegian.com.