Thursday, April 06, 2006

Army Specialist Dustin J. Harris

Remember Our Heroes

Army Specialist Dustin J. Harris, 21, of Patten, Maine

Spc. Harris was assigned to the 172nd Brigade Support Battalion, 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Fort Wainwright, Alaska; killed April 6 when an improvised device detonated while he was conducting dismounted patrol operations in Bayji, Iraq. -- A 21-year-old soldier from Patten became the 17th Mainer to die in the three-year-old Iraq war this week when he was killed by a roadside bomb.

Spc. Dustin J. Harris died Thursday while on patrol with the 172 Brigade Support Battalion out of Fort Wainwright, Alaska. Harris was on foot patrol with elements of the 101st Airborne Division in Beiji, 150 miles north of Baghdad, when the improvised explosive device detonated nearby, the Army said.

Word of his death saddened many residents in his hometown of about 1,100 just outside the northern entrance of Baxter State Park. His mother, a school secretary, and father, a trucker, and other family members were in seclusion and too devastated to talk, according to a man who answered the phone at the family's home and identified himself as Harris' grandfather.

Rae Bates, principal at Katahdin Middle and High School, from which Harris graduated in 2002, said Harris was "one of those outstandingly good people." "He was a talented young man, kind and considerate, who got along well with adults," Bates said.

His only sibling, a brother, is a senior at the school. On Friday the school marked Harris' death with a moment of silence.

Harris' family goes back several generations in Patten. His parents both graduated from Katahdin High and his grandparents on both sides are from the community, Bates said. She said she tried to talk Harris out the military and into going to college instead. But he was eager to join after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"He was very intent and committed," Bates said.

While in Iraq, Harris corresponded with students in his aunt's fourth-grade class, Bates said. They sent him care packages and cards. He would write back.

"So indeed he has touched us," Bates said of the community.

In high school, Harris was an outstanding soccer player who traveled to England to play soccer one spring, she said. He was active in the Stetson United Methodist Church. But most of all, she said, he was known for his big smile and gentle ways.

"He had a lovely smile," she said.

Members of Maine's congressional delegation confirmed the death.

"These are trying times and words cannot do justice to the honor with which Dustin served his country and the sadness and loss his family now feels," U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud said in a prepared statement. Michaud, a Democrat who represents Maine's 2nd congressional district, lives nearby in East Millinocket.

Gov. John Baldacci's office said flags will be ordered flown at half-staff on the day of Harris' funeral.

''Our thoughts and prayers are with Specialist Harris' family during this difficult time,'' said Baldacci. ''James served his state and his nation honorably and all of Maine mourns his loss.''

Army Specialist Dustin J. Harris was killed in action on 04/06/06.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Almost a year has gone by and I just wish we could go back to that day, drive on the otherside of the road, stop ahead of time, anything! Dustin was a great person, and he is looking down on everyone still today. My sincere prayers are continuously with the Harris family, it was wonderful to meet them!