WINDER - A 1996 Norcross High School graduate and Army Ranger was killed Saturday by a roadside bomb in Iraq.
Sgt. Michael Hullender, 29, was killed when he stepped on a bomb in Iskandariyah, about 20 miles south of Baghdad, his father, Ren Hullender, said.
Hullender, a medic who joined the Army in 1998, was preparing wounded soldiers for medical air transport when he was killed, Ren Hullender said.
Hullender parachuted with other soldiers into Afghanistan soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, his father said, for which he was awarded a Bronze Star. He earned numerous medals and recognitions, including the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and the Iraq Campaign Medal.
Hullender would have completed his Army service in January. He and his fiancee, Kyle Harper of Alaska, planned a June 2008 wedding.
"We had just picked out the site on Lake Placid, New York," Harper said. "He was a typical Southern boy, polite and charming. He could walk into a room and walk out a half-hour later knowing everyone in the room."
His former football coach, John Green, remembers Hullender, who played offensive line and linebacker, as a good football player who took care of younger or struggling students.
"He was one of those young men that are extremely mature, even at an early age," Green said. "Very dedicated to working hard and respectful. He also had a sense of responsibility that he was supposed to help the kids who were struggling. He always treated those guys with a lot of respect. He made a big impression on the younger students. He came by to see me a couple times in between tours of duty and I was real proud of the man he grew into."
Hullender's father retired last year as chair of the fine arts department at North Gwinnett High School, where Green now serves as principal. The flag at North Gwinnett is flying at half-staff in Hullender's honor, Green said.
After graduating from Norcross High School, Hullender attended West Georgia College majoring in business.
"When he enlisted, it was with the conditions that he be a Ranger and a medic," Ren Hullender said. "It had always been in the back of his mind to serve his country. He was a member of the Civil Air Patrol in high school. He believed in what we were doing as a nation."
In addition to his father, Hullender is survived by his mother, Cindy Malmo of New Jersey, and his two older sisters, Lisa Filkins of Jasper and Amy Ford of Grayson.
Flanigan Funeral Home in Buford will conduct services with full military honors. Arrangements were incomplete at press time.
The family asked that, in lieu of flowers donations be made to www.freedomalliance.org an organization that awards scholarships to the children of fallen soldiers.