Former U.S. Army Master Sergeant John Hamen, abducted by Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen on October 20, has died in captivity. The exact circumstances of his death have not yet been disclosed.
Hamen lived in Chesapeake, Virginia, where he had a wife and seven children. He was originally from Ohio, a graduate of Lakota High School, according to WCPO News in Cincinnati.
“John is someone that I grew up with. John is someone that we played together when we were three, four, five, six, seven. To hear something like that, it just hits you hard,” childhood friend Michael Bruns told WCPO. Bruns told the Cincinnati Enquirer that Hamen would be buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
After the U.S. State Department confirmed his death, the UK Daily Mail reports that his wife, Jen, wrote a Facebook post in which she said, “A few people from different agencies came to our home to notify us that John had died while in detainment and then was taken to a hospital.” She said his body was due to arrive at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware in less than 48 hours.
In the Facebook post, Jen Hamen apologized to friends for being unable to disclose the details of John’s work or discuss his plight “due to this being a privacy concern with officials in the government when it happened.” She also said she did not have contact information for many of his friends because that information was stored on a laptop and phone in John’s possession when he was detained.
“Our family is heartbroken right now, I have lost the love of my life, my best friend, and my seven kids have lost the best dad ever,” Jen wrote.
“During this very difficult time for our entire family, we hope that everyone can understand our need for privacy as we grieve and remember John as a loving husband, wonderful father to our seven children and a devoted friend who we will be missed beyond words,” Jen added in a statement to local news station WAVY.
WAVY also carried a statement from Tim Kaine (D-VA): “I’m deeply saddened to hear of the loss of John Hamen, a beloved dad from Chesapeake. We owe a debt of gratitude to all of the brave Americans who are risking their lives every day across the globe.”
John Hamen was working as a contractor for a company providing facility management services to the United Nations in Yemen, according to the Daily Mail, which notes the previous job listed on his LinkedIn page from 2012 was “Special Operations Forces joint training team communications observer.”
Hamen was taken captive by the Houthis and forces loyal to Yemen’s deposed President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi shortly after arriving in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa on a United Nations aircraft from Djibouti, along with another contractor, according to a Reuters report. The circumstances of both his capture and his death after only a few weeks in captivity remain mysterious.