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Soldier's fighting spirit never grew old

  • Story Highlights
  • Army Maj. Steven Hutchison, 60, becomes oldest American killed in Iraq
  • Hutchison retired after 22-year Army career, volunteered to return years later
  • Psychology professor served tours in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
  • During interim, he stood by wife during her fight against cancer
By Jim Kavanagh
CNN
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(CNN) -- Army Maj. Steven Hutchison fought battles in the jungles of Vietnam. Then he fought an epic battle on the home front. And at age 60, he still wasn't done fighting for his country.

Maj. Steven Hutchison served 22 years in his first Army stint, then returned at age 57. He died Sunday.

Maj. Steven Hutchison served 22 years in his first Army stint, then returned at age 57. He died Sunday.

The battle ended for Hutchison on Sunday. He died in Basra, Iraq, of wounds from a roadside bomb in Al Farr. He is the oldest U.S. service member to die in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Hutchison joined the Army in 1966 and served two one-year tours in Vietnam, according to a news release from Fort Riley, Kansas, home of Hutchison's 1st Infantry Division, the famous "Big Red One."

Over the next 22 years, he was a platoon leader in Germany and commander of a basic training company at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

Along the way, he earned a doctorate in psychology from the University of Delaware and became an assistant professor of military science at Claremont College in California. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal, among others.

Hutchison retired from the military in 1988 and took up the quiet life of a college professor. He taught at several small colleges in California and became a researcher for a health care company in Scottsdale, Arizona, said his brother, Richard Hutchison.

But Hutchison felt compelled to return to military service after the terrorist attacks of September 11. His wife, Kandy, vetoed that idea, however.

That decision proved fateful, as Hutchison was able to stand by his wife's side through her battle with breast cancer. She died of the disease in January 2006.

The always-athletic Hutchison channeled his grief by whipping himself into shape and returning to active duty at age 57 the following year, his brother said. Military rules say retirees may be recalled up to age 64 for general officers, 62 for warrant officers and 60 for all others.

Hutchison served a tour in Afghanistan and then was sent to Iraq, where he was part of a team training Iraqi forces to secure their own country.

"He's been a soldier his whole life," Richard Hutchison, of Mesa, Arizona, told CNN affiliate KNXV-TV. Video Watch a report on Hutchison's life »

"He was a great guy," he said. "We hung around together; we went to the movies together, went out to dinner together. He loved to shoot pool; we used to shoot pool all the time, either at my house or at his house. He was just a great friend and a great brother."

The soldier-psychology professor, who is also survived by two daughters and two half-siblings, had a mischievous side, too.

"He liked to tease me about him being younger than me, even though he was five years older than me," Richard Hutchison said with a soft chuckle. "He would tell everyone he was the youngest one. And they would believe him. Made me feel real good."

Richard Hutchison plans to fly to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware over the weekend to claim his brother's body and return it to Scottsdale for burial.

The last communication the brothers had was a routine e-mail Steven Hutchison sent from Iraq about two weeks ago. He rarely wrote about his experiences in Iraq, Richard Hutchison said.

However, there was one matter on the ground that the soldier involved his brother in.

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"When he was in Iraq, they found a dog and were taking care of it. He sent me an e-mail asking me to send some dog food and dog supplies," Hutchison said. The Army made Hutchison's team give up the dog, but they left it in good hands, his brother said.

"He had a big heart."

CNN's Adam Levine, Larry Shaughnessy, Barbara Starr and Joe Sterling contributed to this report.

All About U.S. Army ActivitiesIraqAfghanistanVietnam

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