On Monday, CNN’s Brooke Baldwin interviewed Kelli Hake, whose husband, Staff Sgt. Christopher Hake, was killed by an IED in Iraq in March 2008, prompting her to join over 300 veterans and family members who have filed a lawsuit against Iran for its arming and funding of terrorist groups in attacks in Iraq against U.S. and coalition forces from 2004 to 2011.
Hake’s son Gage was only two when his father was killed; as Military Times wrote of the letter Christopher wrote his little son before he left for his last mission:
The neatly scripted, single-page message told little Gage how special the boy was to this first-time father, how the night he left on this second Iraq deployment was the hardest he’d face, how he’d kept picking up the boy, kissing him, putting him back down and then picking him up again.
“I never wanted to let you go,” Hake wrote. But the 26-year-old staff sergeant had a mission. He had to go. As he closed the letter, he made promises to his son. “I will be with you again. I will teach you to ride your first bike, build your first sand box, watch you play sports and see you have kids also,” Hake wrote. “I am always with you. Dadda,” he signed off.
When Baldwin asked Hake how she felt when she heard of the death of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who led the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which provided to the IEDs to Shiite militias in Iraq, as the Washington Examiner noted, Hake answered that it “felt like a burden off my chest that he was gone,” later adding that when her now 13-year-old son heard the news, “He just kind of started running around the house saying, “Yes! Yes! He’s dead!’”
Baldwin started the interview by asking, “When you first found out that the U.S. killed Soleimani in that drone strike, what was the first thing that went through your mind?”
Hake answered, “Probably a little bit of relief, knowing that he couldn’t hurt anyone else.”
Baldwin: And can you describe the relief a bit more?”
Hake: Yeah, I just — the name came across and the name wasn’t super familiar, but the name of the IRGC was very familiar to me. And so I put everything together and realized what had just happened. It kind of felt like a burden off my chest that he was gone and I didn’t really have to worry so much, you know. It was just like a burden off my chest.
Baldwin asked, “At what point did you realize, at what point did you put two and two together, that the way in which your husband was killed was ultimately at the hands of this guy Soleimani?”
Hake replied, “That was not until years later.”
Baldwin asked, “Tell me how.”
Hake: So I had known during conversations with other soldiers that he was killed by a very specific IED called an EFP; I had known that it was a very specific kind, but that’s really all I knew. I didn’t know that it was made in Iran; I didn’t know the specifics of everything at the time, and then as the years passed, I ended up getting a letter from my lawyer, who at the time wasn’t my lawyer at the time, but kind of explaining what their findings were. They were tracing these EFPs back to Iran and that they would like to have another conversation with me. At that time I went ahead and spoke with them and learned more about who actually killed my husband.
Asked what she hoped to gain from the massive lawsuit, Hake answered, “To make it public. I want the American people to understand that Iran had a part in killing my husband who was an American soldier.”
Baldwin asked Hake how she had explained her husband’s death to her son through the years. Hake answered, “There have been a few conversations here and there, I mean, at first he was so young; really we just said “Daddy died and went to heaven to be with the angels.” As he’s gotten older we have talked more about how he died, and how he is our hero, and how he’s an American hero. We’ve gone through those things as he asked questions; we try to answer them to the best we can for however old he is at the time. When we did find out that Soleimani had passed away, I did tell him that he was the one responsible for his dad’s death.
Baldwin: And he said what to you, the thirteen-year-old boy?
Hake: He kind of looked at me and he was like, “Really?” And he he just kind of started running around the house saying, “Yes! Yes! He’s dead!” I could tell he was very relieved as well.