Thursday, July 01, 2010

Marine Cpl. Larry D. Harris Jr.

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Cpl. Larry D. Harris Jr., 24, of Thornton, Colo.

Cpl Harris was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; died July 1, 2010 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

The body of Cpl. Larry Harris Jr., 24, a Camp Pendleton Marine killed in Afghanistan, has been returned to the U.S. and to his family in Colorado.
And the details of Harris' heroism are beginning to emerge.

Cpl. Harris, a mortar man, was killed July 1 while on combat patrol in Helmand province, a Taliban stronghold. His patrol was ambushed and Lance Cpl. Jake Henry was wounded.

Harris was carrying Henry to safety outside the "kill zone." Brian Henry, the lance corporals father, wrote on a Facebook page for family members of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment:

"He was carrying my son when he tripped an explosive device. His life was lost but my son lives. [Our] prayers and love go out to the family of this hero who will never be forgotten by my family."

Harris took the brunt of the blast. He died instantly.

"He wasn't [just] my friend, he was my brother," a friend told a Denver television station.

THORNTON, Colo. -- The parents of a Thornton Marine killed in combat said he died while saving another Marine's life.

Cpl. Larry Harris Jr. died Thursday in Afghanistan.

"I got a letter from him about a month ago," said his mother, Lora Merriweather. "He was looking forward to coming home for Thanksgiving. He listed all the foods he wanted each one of us to prepare."

The last time Merriweather heard from her son he didn't write about the danger, but she knew.

She said the Marines told her that he was killed during a firefight.

"A fellow Marine had been shot, and he draped him across his shoulders and transported him to safety. That's when he tripped over the IED," she said. "It helps me in my healing process to know that he was sacrificing his life not only for us. He could have run for cover, but he didn't leave his fellow Marine behind."

Merriweather said her son had found his calling in the Marines.

"He was very proud to be a part of that particular branch and to wear that uniform. He wore it with pride," she said.

And before he died, she said she knows he had finally found true love. He had just gotten married in March.

"He wanted to be loved and he wanted to love -- and I believe he found that in his wife." The family is not releasing the name of Cpl. Harris' wife in order to protect her privacy for now.

Larry D. Harris Jr. made his friends laugh.

A couple years ago, he and his hip-hop group, 2 Real 4 Da Mind, pulled an all-nighter in Las Vegas. As his friends were getting ready to fall asleep around 7 a.m., Harris started jumping on the bed doing a spot-on imitation of a gorilla.
Jimmy Macias and others can't help but look back at the funny memories of Harris, even as they mourn the 24-year-old Marine corporal's death.

On Thursday, the 2003 Boulder High School graduate was killed by a roadside bomb while on a combat foot patrol in Helmand province, Afghanistan, the U.S. Marine Corps announced Friday.

Those who knew Harris best described him as fun, light-hearted and entertaining.

"He was happy-go-lucky," said Seth Hetherington, who played high school football with Harris. "He was always happy, always smiling."

Harris served as a defensive lineman for the Panthers, ran track and field and served in various campus clubs.

"If there was an assembly, he was in front of it," said former Boulder High football coach Bob Carskie, now the offensive coordinator at Centaurus High School.

Carskie said that in every aspect of his life Harris was "committed to being successful." Anything that he may have lacked in talent, he made up for with will power and determination.

"He just kept showing up every day and made himself into a high-quality football player," Carskie said.

As a hip-hop artist with his friends, he was able to perform locally with Macias and Anthony Romero, who had all been friends since the sixth grade at Casey Middle School. Romero said that Harris always had stage presence.

"The energy he provided was phenomenal," Romero said. "He just exuded confidence everywhere he went."While his fun side was always apparent, Hetherington said that when something needed to get done, Harris was "the first one to say 'let's go.'"

Still, he had his fair share of obstacles. As a black kid growing up in a predominately white area, Harris had to deal with racism, Macias said.

"He was always the only black kid in class," Macias said. "We always dealt with it."

Harris tackled racism head-on, participating in programs such as Reading to End Racism, which helps educate local elementary school children about the issue.

Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Macias said that Harris originally wanted to join the Air Force and did several patrol ride-along with local law enforcement. He joined the Marines in May 2006, in part because of the influence from his step-father, who was also Marine.

Larry Harris, a Thornton resident, was a mortar man assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. Before being deployed to Afghanistan, he also served in Iraq.

Among his service awards were the Purple Heart, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, the Combat Action Ribbon, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Medal and the sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

His friends said that he cared deeply for his community and was in the military for the benefit of those around him.

His friends said they will never forgot his devotion -- and his ability to light up a room.

"He was the shortest," Macias said, "but always the biggest."

"Thank you Larry for serving our country so that we can all live comfortably over here in the states while you lived uncomfortably in a foreign place fighting for us. My condolences to your family for they could not be with you. People will have heartache over the loss of such a great person but with it comes their great memories of you. I didn't know Larry well but have met him and seen him perform and I wouldn't ask for a better, kinder and more honest person to defend me and my country. May the thought of everything good that Larry did bring peace to his family. Harris' family, you raised a wonderful son." (post left by anonymous friend)

Marine Cpl. Larry D. Harris Jr. was killed in action on 7/1/10.

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