For 19 years, Steven Ross Hamilton sailed around the world as a merchant seaman, volunteering to carry cargo into military hot spots such as the Persian Gulf and Vietnam.
Each port -- no matter how dangerous -- represented a new challenge and a new adventure for Mr. Hamilton, 37, whose love of the sea kept him away from his family in Baltimore for about 10 months out of the year.
In December, he dropped anchor in Baltimore for a rare extended visit with his friends and relatives. It proved to be the most dangerous port call he ever made.
On Jan. 27, after Mr. Hamilton left a Super Bowl party at a tavern in Rosedale, a hit-and-run motorist struck him from behind as he stood on the northbound shoulder of Pulaski Highway near White Avenue, said Sgt. Stephen R. Doarnberger, a Baltimore County police spokesman.
The impact lifted him completely out of his shoes.
"He walked the back alleys of Beirut and the side streets of Bangkok and got run over on the streets of Baltimore," said Rodney S. Hamilton, 33, his brother.
Officers from the Essex precinct found Mr. Hamilton lying unconscious shortly after the 2 a.m. accident and had him flown to the Maryland Shock-Trauma Center, where he remained in a coma for several weeks.
The driver has not been found.
Although Mr. Hamilton still does not recognize people and is unable to walk or talk, physicians transferred him last week to Maryland General Hospital to begin what is expected to be a lengthy rehabilitation program.
"They really didn't think he was going to make it," Rodney Hamilton said. "But, thank God for the work they're doing at Shock-Trauma and the two officers who found him, it appears he will. But he will have a lot of rehabilitation to do."
Rodney Hamilton said his brother "loved his job. He was a dedicated workaholic. If he realized what had happened to him, he probably wouldn't want to live." He said his brother took a cab to the Super Bowl party because he knew he would be drinking and a lot of motorists would be on the road. "He didn't want to drive and get a DWI [citation] or, worse yet, kill someone," his brother said.
Since the accident, Steven Hamilton's five brothers and three sisters have been going to the hospital to help care for him.
"You can picture how traumatic this has been for all of us. We are a very close family. He would have done the same for us," said Rodney Hamilton, who is also a merchant seaman.
As children, Mr. Hamilton and his brother were regaled with the seagoing adventures of another brother, and Steven Hamilton developed his love for the sea as a teen-ager.
Since then, he has traveled around the world several times and volunteered to carry cargo and munitions during the invasion of Grenada and into war-torn Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and Panama Canal, family members said.
He also volunteered to go to the Philippines in June 1991 to help evacuate Clark Air Force Base during the eruption of the Mount Pinatubo volcano.
On Dec. 22 last year, he returned to Baltimore to spend his first Christmas at home in 15 years.
"He wanted to be here for his boy's 13th birthday on Jan. 8. Whenever he got home, he would take him [Steven Ross Hamilton Jr.] to places like Disney World," said Rodney Hamilton.
Rodney Hamilton said he is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the motorist who struck his brother.
Another reward of up to $1,000 has been offered by Metro Crime Stoppers for information leading to an arrest and indictment.
Anyone with information is asked to call the White Marsh precinct in Baltimore County at 887-5000.