For Johnny Hooker, a civilian Army employee, bad luck turned to good when he was delayed in returning from Iraq, then won more than $15,000 in the lottery.
After six months in Mosul, where his cot in a converted warehouse was too short and mortar fire often shattered his sleep, Hooker had to stay another month with the added pain of impacted wisdom teeth when his replacement was diverted to another assignment.
When he returned home Saturday, his first stop was a supermarket for some grub and Washington State Lottery tickets three each of Mega Millions, Quinto and Lotto and two Lucky For Life.
The next day Hooker learned that one of the Lucky for Life tickets bore two sets of winning numbers, one for $2 and the other for $20,000.
With a deduction for taxes, he collected $15,001.50 between visits to the dentist but said he was happy just to get home in one piece.
"I count my blessings," Hooker said Tuesday at lottery headquarters in Olympia, his cheeks puffed out by cotton balls.
A former sergeant, Hooker has been at Fort Lewis since May 2000 to work with the Army Materiel Command on development of the Stryker brigades. He was sent to Iraq with the first of the two brigades in November to work on parts and supply operations.
"I was just glad I was able to get out of there," Hooker said. "Once I got out of Iraqi air space, I relaxed. Homeward bound."
Only for a time. Hooker said he'd likely have to return to Iraq next year with the second Stryker brigade.