OPELIKA, Ala. (AP) — It's been 13 years since Opelika native Stephen "Dusty" Hiller was killed during an ambush on his unit in Iraq. For his mother, time has not necessarily helped to heal the wound.
The story of the ambush of Dusty's unit was told in the 2007 book "The Long Road Home" by ABC News journalist Martha Raddatz. National Geographic has developed the book into a mini-series that made its premiere Tuesday night on National Geographic's television network.
"Being in the military was Dusty's dream," said Beth Hiller, Dusty's mother, in a statement released by the city of Opelika. "It was definitely hard reading the book in 2007 because it was like reliving 2004. I was mad, angry and sad all at one time."
"I knew about the mini-series the first of the year but wasn't sure when or how it was coming out. As the days get closer, I am getting anxious about watching and reliving the time again. But I do want to see it, just like I knew I had to read the book.
"I wanted answers about the event. The book was good, and I know the author will do it justice in the series."
A description of the mini-series on the National Geographic website lists the following:
"On April 4, 2004, the First Cavalry Division from Fort Hood was ferociously ambushed in Sadr City, Baghdad -- a day that later came to be known as 'Black Sunday.'
"Based on Martha Raddatz's best-selling book, The Long Road Home chronicles their heroic fight for survival, as well as their families' agonizing wait on the home front back in Texas."
Dusty was among eight soldiers who were killed.
His mother, a revenue assistant with the city of Opelika, said the family grew up here and Dusty attended Opelika High School. She said he was a "smart kid" while also "a handful."
"Growing up, he wasn't very outdoorsy, and he always got grades except for PE - he hated dressing out," Hiller said in an interview with the Opelika-Auburn News.
Years later Dusty would move from his aversion to physical education, as Hiller said her son "loved" boot camp.
"He really enjoyed it," she said with a laugh.
Her son had a giving personality, she said, telling about the time he gave clothes and shoes to a homeless person in Opelika because he "felt like he needed to help."
"He never met a stranger. Once you meet him, you never forget him," she said.