Wife: Soldier killed in Hawaii was dad first, Army second

An undated courtesy photo of Terrence and Jillian Hinton with their two children.


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A 36-year-old soldier stationed in Hawaii who called Grand Rapids home was killed Sunday in a rollover crash.

Sgt. Terrence Hinton spent eight years in the Army where he planned to make a career, but also planned to return home to Grand Rapids where his mom and four sisters live.

Instead, a Sunday morning crash took the life of a soldier who survived deployments to Afghanistan and Kuwait.

Undated courtesy photo of Army Sgt. Terrence Hinton.

Jillian Hinton has traveled with her career Army husband as he was stationed throughout the country, but she had not yet joined his latest deployment in Hawaii. Now, she is planning his funeral.

“For 28 years before he was a soldier, he was her son and he was a brother and he was a husband and he was a friend and he was an upstanding member of the community,” said Jillian Hinton, speaking to 24 Hour News 8 from Illinois.

The crash happened Sunday just before 7:30 a.m. Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time — 1:30 a.m. Michigan time.

Police in Hawaii say the driver, a 20-year-old soldier, lost control on Daniel K. Inouye Highway and the tractor-trailer truck hauling heavy equipment struck a guardrail before flipping in a culvert.

Police say Hinton was a passenger in the front seat. He was pronounced dead at 12:35 p.m. at Kona Community Hospital.

Hinton’s wife, Jillian, was notified within minutes of his death.

The driver was taken to North Hawaii Community Hospital in Waimea for treatment. He was listed Sunday in stable condition.

Police say they are investigating the possibility of negligent homicide in relation to the crash. They are determining whether a stop sign was ran in this case.

Hinton served as a motor transport operator. He enlisted in the Army in 2009 and previously served at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, moving to Hawaii in 2016. Hinton also deployed twice, once to Afghanistan in 2010 and Kuwait in 2014, a total of 21 months.

Hinton had been back in Grand Rapids for a month in March where he was able to spend time with his 5-year-old daughter and 14-year-old stepson.

“He graduated from Ottawa Hills High School where he wrestled and was in the band, both were brief but he was still proud of both,” Jill Hinton said. “He’s been described by many people who have reached out to me, he was the guy who got out. He grew up on the south side over there.”

After high school, he worked for Cascade Engineering for 10 years. It’s where he met his wife.

They met during a terrible snow storm in 2007 when he gave her a ride home and then picked her up early the next day.

“What I didn’t know the next morning when he took me to work was that his shift actually started four hours after mine,” Jillian Hinton said.

She said this is the kind of thing he would do for anyone, not just the woman he had his eyes on marrying.

“I used to joke with him that he was nice to a fault. ‘You can be too nice,’ I used to tell him, ‘and you’re too nice,’” Jillian Hinton said.

Two years after they met, Hinton decided to make a big change in his life.

“It was kind of weird because he just literally met a guy one day that was in the Army and just out of the blue came home and said ‘hey what do you think about me joining the Army,” Jillian Hinton said. “He didn’t just want to be a forever-soldier himself, he wanted to find good soldiers that had that love of service, too.”

He trained in Fort Benning in Georgia, lived in Kentucky in 2010 and joined the Army’s 101st Airborne Division. They lived there until he went to Afghanistan in 2010. When he returned to the states in 2011, they had their delayed honeymoon and April 23, 2012, his daughter Cayleigh Hinton was born.

Undated courtesy photo of Army Sgt. Terrence Hinton.

“She changed everything about him,” Jillian Hinton said. “He would be all dressed up in his army uniform and come home and play tea party on the floor.”

She said while he was a decorated soldier promoted to sergeant and working on becoming a staff sergeant, his priorities changed.

“He was a soldier before that, see that was his number one job that was all he cared about, but when she came along, he was a soldier second and a dad first,” Jillian Hinton said. “If I could sum him up in the end what he was, he was a dad who was being a soldier to take care of his daughter.”

Jillian Hinton said plans are still being finalized, but she hopes his body will be back in Grand Rapids Monday where the Patriot Riders have offered to escort the body to the funeral home. She hopes to have a funeral service sometime next week.

In the meantime, she plans to keep an eye on the investigation into his death in Hawaii.