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ODU Graduate RJ Hess Killed in Line of Duty in Afghanistan

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Robert Joseph "RJ" Hess, 26, died April 23, 2013, in Pul-E-Alam, Afghanistan, from wounds suffered from enemy fire. He was assigned to the 2nd Aviation Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, at Fort Drum, N.Y.

A 2010 graduate of Old Dominion, Hess received a bachelor's degree in criminal justice and was a member of the swimming and diving team under head coach Carol Withus. His father, retired U.S. Army Col. Robert T. Hess Sr., is a 1982 ODU graduate and also swam at the university.

"RJ worked extremely hard in everything that he set out to accomplish. He was so active around the university, especially within the ROTC. RJ was always a team player who was willing to compete in any event for the Monarchs," Withus said. "RJ is going to be sorely missed."

Hess was born March 25, 1987, at Fort Rucker, Ala. In his obituary, his parents said: "RJ was the kind of person that could brighten up a room and could bring a smile to everyone he met. He put his heart and soul into everything he did and was a natural leader and a great officer. RJ loved the Army and wanted to serve his country. RJ died living his dream."

Hess attended Robinson High School in Fairfax, Va., where he played football, lacrosse and was the captain of the swim team. He graduated in 2005. He joined ROTC his junior year in college and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army in 2010. He was selected to be an Army aviator and attended Basic Officer Leaders Course and flight school in 2011.

After completing pilot training at Fort Rucker, Hess was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, in November 2012, where he was a UH-60M Blackhawk pilot and mission planner. He was selected to be part of his unit's advanced party and had just recently deployed to Afghanistan, on April 11, 2013.

Hess's awards and decorations include the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, the NATO Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Combat Action Badge, the Army Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon and the Army Aviator Badge.

Hess is survived by his father and mother, Lauren Hess of Fairfax, Va., and brother, Patrick.

The family will receive family and friends at Fairfax Memorial Funeral Home, 9902 Braddock Road, Fairfax, Va., from 6-8 p.m. Friday, May 3, and from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 4. His funeral will be held at Memorial Chapel, Fort Myer, Va., at 11 a.m. Monday, May 13, with full military honors and interment at Arlington National Cemetery.

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