11 May 2007

"He loved being a Soldier"

Email from the grandmother of a wounded Soldier we'd been asked to check on in March:

Dear MaryAnn,

I just mailed two blankets this morning.

I also want you to know that the Stryker that got hit last Sunday was Casey's Stryker. The SGT that was killed saved Casey's life [back in March].

Casey told us that when he and two other soldiers were hit that Sgt. Harkins stood over them and returned fire all the time yelling for help for the fallen soldiers.

[During that incident] Sgt. Harkins took a bullet to his helmet-- it stayed in his helmet.

If Casey had not gotten wounded [and sent back home] he would have been with those men. We see the hand of providence in this.

Casey had asked us to continue to send boxes to his unit and we addressed the last box to Sgt. Harkins and he returned the nicest letter to us so we feel really close to him.

He will always be in my prayers for the deceased.

Thank you for all that you do for the soldiers.

Bonnie M.

25-year-old Sgt. Jason Harkins of the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, was one of six Ft. Lewis soldiers killed last Sunday in Diyala Province.

The 5-20 has seen heavy fighting since moving north from Taji in mid-March, joining with units of the 1st CAV to engage al Qaeda elements who have regrouped in Diyala after fleeing Baghdad.

The al-Qaeda group calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq has claimed responsibility for the attack. An AP reporter with the Strykers described it this way:

"As the vehicles inched down a trash-strewn road, a thunderous blast consumed one of them in a huge ball of gray debris that flipped the eight-wheeled, 37,000-pound troop carrier upside down and tore out its interior.

"The explosion killed everyone inside except the driver.

As troops scrambled to recover casualties, gunmen fired from a large yellow-domed mosque across the street, sparking a firefight that saw rounds ping off the wreckage. The Strykers blasted small chunks of concrete off the mosque with 40mm grenades and heavy caliber guns. Later, three insurgents wearing armored vests -- probably stolen from police -- were found dead in the mosque."

A few weeks ago, Sgt. Harkins told family members he had something to show them proving their prayers were being heard: the bullet which struck his helmet during the attack in which Spc. Casey Turner and two others were wounded but left him unhurt.

Spc. Josh Holubz is another of those soldiers who credits Harkins with saving his life:

“I came pretty close to dying that night,” he said. “I actually thought I was going to die that night.”

Before going out on that mission in March, Harkins handed out gauze pads to his fire team, including Holubz. That gauze was used to stop the bleeding when a terrorist bullet ripped through his shoulder and out through his chest.

"I never had a chance to talk to him or thank him for that."

On another occaison Harkins had gone into the kill zone and pulled one of his soldiers to safety, heroism for which he was slated to receive a Bronze Star.

Sgt. Jason Harkins always wanted to follow his father's footsteps into the Army since he was a little boy stalking the yard with a toy rifle. He enlisted in the Army Reserve in 1998 and went active duty in March 2003.

Harkins was a veteran of a previous deployment to Iraq with the brigade from 2003-2004. Between deployments he graduated from jump school and got married.

His widow, Emily Harkins, said the words of Psalm 144:1-2 described her late husband well:

"Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for battle, my fingers for war; My safeguard and my fortress, my stronghold, my deliverer, My shield, in whom I trust, who subdues peoples under me."

She said he loved being a Soldier.

Godspeed, Sgt. Harkins.

MNF-Iraq B-roll of soldiers from the 3rd Stryker Brigade in Diyala Province in March.

Sources: The Northeast Georgian, The News Tribune

No comments: