Palmer Hill: Fighting a different battle

Published: Tuesday, April 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 31, 2003 at 11:37 p.m.

A tearful mother talked to her son on the phone Christmas Eve. Pfc. Palmer Hill Jr., 21, had just been deployed to the Persian Gulf as part of the Army's third infantry, a division specializing in desert warfare.

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Pfc. Palmer Hill Jr. is now stationed in Iraq with the Army's third infantry, a division specializing in desert warfare.

(Special to The Sun)

Dolly D. Hill told her son she wished there was some way she could see him on Christmas Day. After trying to comfort his mom, Palmer Jr. said goodbye and his family went off to bed.

The next morning, they got an early surprise Christmas present.

The Hills woke up to another phone call from Palmer Jr. - this time around 6 a.m.

He told his dad, Palmer Hill Sr., to turn on the TV and flip to CNN. Just as he tuned in, Palmer Sr. saw his son amidst other soldiers, talking to a CNN correspondent.

"As far as how he got the interview, I don't know," Palmer Sr. says. "But, he found a way to wish his mom a merry Christmas."

Palmer Hill Jr. graduated from Gainesville High School in 2000. At GHS, he was known for his skill as a punter for the football team, where he played with Denver Broncos star Clinton Portis and NFL prospect Ian Scott.

As part of the American force stationed in Iraq, Palmer Jr. is using his skills to fight a different kind of battle - this time, on the front lines.

The third infantry, from Fort Stewart, Ga., specializes in desert warfare. This same division was integral in Operation Desert Storm, as well as in the efforts going on today. ABC's Ted Koppel is embedded with Palmer Jr.'s division and is reporting with them from the front lines.

Palmer Hill Sr. says he is proud of his son, and he believes in what his son is fighting for.

"Ever since he was a kid, he's never let us down. He's always been respectful," Palmer Sr. says. "He's one of Gainesville's finest."

While Palmer Jr. was training at Fort Stewart, he visited his parents on most weekends because it was only a three-hour drive home.

"We miss him," Palmer Sr. says. "We pray that he stays safe."

After graduating from GHS, Palmer Jr. attended Santa Fe Community College, where he pursued a degree in respiratory therapy. Before completing his degree, he enlisted in the Army in the spring of 2001, after getting advice from his older brother, Reginald Hill, who is stationed at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville. Reginald has been in the service for 11 years.

Palmer Jr.'s work on the football field and his intensity in pursuing goals apparently prepared him well for the military. His father says those traits demonstrate how his son's attitude shines through.

"He's always willing to sacrifice for the team," his father says.

Palmer Jr.'s sister, Alisha Hill, a sophomore at GHS, helped her parents tie three yellow ribbons around a tree in their front yard for three special young people deployed in Iraq: Palmer Jr., his fiancee, 19-year-old Marrissa Hall of Albany, Ga., and Sherick Williams, 22, Palmer Jr.'s best friend and a 1999 Buchholz High School graduate.

"Me and my wife have faith in God that he's going to be OK," Palmer Sr. says. "Anything he's set his mind to, he's accomplished it."

Until recently, Palmer Jr. stayed in contact with his family by e-mail.

"Troop morale is high," his dad says. "Palmer says they are ready to fight."

Palmer Sr. says once U.S. troops started getting captured, his family became much more concerned.

"But, as head of the family, I try to keep everyone calm," he says.

The Sun will feature a different serviceman or woman stationed in the Mideast in each issue of Daybreak. If you have a relative from North Central Florida who is serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom, let us hear from you. Call 374-5049 or send an e-mail to

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