Saturday, August 29, 2009

Army Pfc. Eric W. Hario

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Eric W. Hario, 19, of Monroe, Mich.

Pfc Hario was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Hunter Army Airfield, Ga.; died Aug. 29, 2009 in Paktika province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when he was shot by enemy forces Aug. 28, 2009 while conducting combat operations.

Monroe Evening News -- Despite the dangers that awaited him, Army Pfc. Eric W. Hario of Monroe knew he wanted to be a Ranger because he was committed to excellence.

And when he achieved his goal, his confidence is his abilities only got stronger.

"He was on top of the world," his mother, Becky, said this morning. "He was always so sure of himself."

On Friday, Pfc. Hario, 19, a 2008 Monroe High School graduate, was shot in the neck during a mission in the Paktika Province of Afghanistan. A medic attended to him immediately, but he died in the helicopter during emergency evacuation to a hospital.

"He always strived to be the best," Mrs. Hario said. "He wanted to be a Ranger because they're the best. Rangers all the way. He was on top of the world. He was always so sure of himself."

The news came Saturday when two members of the military approached the family home where an American flag hangs near the front door. At first Mrs. Hario wasn't sure who the two dark figures were standing outside.

As soon as she saw the dress uniforms, she knew.

"They don't come to give you good news," she said. "It's not even real to us."

A Monroe High School football player and wrestler, Pfc. Hario always was going to be a soldier, his parents said. Ever since he was a youngster, it was evident that their youngest of three boys was going to dedicate himself to his country.

As he got older, he enjoyed playing video games with military themes. He had a large American flag hanging in his bedroom, his parents said.

He enlisted when he was 17 and began basic training on July 5, 2008, at Fort Benning, Ga. He then finished his training as a Ranger. He was an infantryman assigned to the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga.

Though they knew their son would be placed in dangerous situations, his parents always supported his decisions.

"I told my sons to follow their dreams," his father, James, said. "He was very committed."

"I felt really proud and scared at the same time," Mrs. Hario added.

Their oldest son, Spc. Robert Hario, 25, also is in the Army and is stationed at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, Colo. He and his family are expected home tonight. Their middle son, Mark, 22, is a student at Monroe County Community College.

Arrangements still are pending, but the Harios believe the funeral will not be held until next week. His flag-draped casket arrived today in the United States.

The Army released a statement stating that Pfc. Hario was mortally wounded during a combat operation on his first deployment "in support of the Global War on Terror." The battle lasted more than 20 hours.

Pfc. Hario's decorations include the National Defense Service Medal and the Parachutist Badge.

"As a Ranger, Pfc. Eric William Hario distinguished himself as a member of the Army's premier light-infantry unit, traveled to all corners of the world in support of the Global War on Terrorism, and fought valiantly to uphold the prestige, honor, and high 'esprit de corps' of the Ranger Regiment," the statement said.

Pfc. Hario had been deployed to Afghanistan only about three weeks ago, something his parents knew would happen.

"If you're a Ranger, you're going to Afghanistan," Mr. Hario said. "It was just a matter of time."

His parents know little of the firefight that claimed their son's life. They only know that he was on a mission and was struck down almost immediately after stepping off a helicopter. A second soldier was killed and three others were wounded. However, Mrs. Hario said she heard that the insurgents were overtaken during the long fight.

"Apparently they got what they deserved," she said.

It was only a day or two before the deadly battle that Mrs. Hario spoke to her son, a young man she described as funny, committed and happy. It was during that conversation that she felt her son had a premonition. She said he always spoke openly to her and she had an instinct that he was concerned about this mission.

It was the last time she spoke to him.

"I think he knew," Mrs. Hario said. "He said, 'I love you all very much. You're always in my heart.' "

Army Pfc. Eric W. Hario was killed in action on 8/29/09.

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