FORT BRAGG, N.C. – This was not the homecoming Chief Warrant Officer Stanley Harriman’s family had wanted. The Green Beret's body returned to this military community in a casket draped with the American flag — a symbol of the country he loved so much, the country he was willing to die for.
Harriman, 34, was struck by enemy fire Saturday during a ground attack in the snowy mountains of eastern Afghanistan. He was the first American to die in Operation Anaconda, the U.S.-led assault on hundreds of Al Qaeda forces near the town of Gardez.
"I’m so proud of him because he’s a true hero," said Harriman’s wife Sheila.
Stanley Harriman came from a military family. His identical twin brother Steve also serves in the Army. Their father Buzz, a retired army major, flew helicopters for three tours of duty in Vietnam.
Relatives say Stanley Harriman was well aware of the dangers he faced on his mission in Afghanistan. But he wanted to make the world a safer place, and he embraced his mission enthusiastically.
Sheila Harriman recalled an e-mail message in which her husband wrote: "I’m so excited about doing this. This is what I’ve trained 16 years to do."
Born in Springfield, Mo., Harriman enlisted in the Army at the age of 18. He was stationed at Fort Bragg for 13 years, spending the last eight of those years as a member of the 3rd Special Forces Group — a unit of the Green Berets.
He was also a devout Christian.
"He built his life around the church and his family, and that is what he was living for," Steve Harriman said of his brother.
Stanley Harriman leaves behind two children: daughter Darbi, 6, and son Stanley Christopher, 3.
His widow comforted their children by telling them they would one day join their father in heaven. For now, the family is taking comfort in its firm belief that Stanley Harriman died for a greater good.
"He loved his country and he died for you," Sheila Harriman told reporters. "He died for each and every one of us. The millions who stand on this soil — he died for them."