Minn. soldier killed in Afghanistan

  • Article by: MARK BRUNSWICK and MARY LYNN SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 15, 2011 - 10:03 PM

Sgt. Matthew Harmon of Fosston was killed in an explosion after surviving two deployments to Iraq.

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Sgt. Matthew Harmon

A 29-year-old graduate of Fosston High School was killed Sunday in Afghanistan.

The parents of Sgt. Matthew Harmon, who had deployed to Afghanistan about a month ago, were notified early Monday morning that he had been killed by an explosive device that hit his vehicle while his unit was attempting to recover another bomb-damaged vehicle.

It was his first deployment to Afghanistan, although he had served two previous tours in Iraq, said his father, Tom Harmon.

"We heard that it was hit by an explosive device on the road and while they were in the process of recovering it there was a secondary explosion and that's what killed him," he said.

Harmon joined the Minnesota National Guard as a senior in high school in 1999 and eventually joined the active Army in 2004. Tom Harmon had been in the National Guard and Matthew liked the military lifestyle.

"He was happy providing a decent living for his family and it was a very close, young family," Tom Harmon said. "He was pretty happy with his life. You don't obviously like being separated from your family a year at a time, but nobody knows when something is going to happen to you. You're concerned whenever they are deployed. But he was an adult. I have nothing against the military. Obviously it's much more risky when you get sent to Afghanistan, but people lose children in car wrecks. Outside of being very sad that we've lost our oldest son, I'm not bitter about anything."

Harmon, a bit of a shy kid who played sports, decided in high school that he wanted to join the military, said friend and former classmate Aaron Lenes. "It was something he felt he needed to do. ... He was going to see parts of the world that you normally wouldn't get to see. And he would be doing a service ... a good fit for him."

On Monday, shock swept across Fosston, a town of about 1,500. "I know the military is a tough life and a lot of families get these kinds of calls," Lenes said. But in a small town, the soldier is usually someone's classmate, friend or neighbor.

"It's not a stranger," Lenes said. "We're a well-knitted community."

Besides sadness, Lenes said he's left feeling a little guilty. "Here I am going to work every day and coming home at night," Lenes said. "A guy like Matt is over there fighting for our country and is away from his family."

Lenes last saw Harmon in 2005. "I could see he was proud to be a soldier. Proud to be an American. Proud to be a father and a husband," Lenes said.

Harmon is survived by his wife, Nicole, a Grand Forks native, and three children, Danika, 8, Vincent, 5, and Elsie, 3. Funeral arrangements are pending, but Harmon's body is expected to be returned to Minnesota for burial in Fosston.

Harmon had been stationed in Germany since 2005 and told his father he anticipated rough going in Afghanistan.

"The difference between the two tours of Iraq was the first one was pretty rough, the second one was not bad at all," his father said "But he told me before he left for Afghanistan that they were going to a pretty rugged, troublesome area. He didn't think this one was going to be any picnic."

mbrunswick@startribune.com • 612-673-4434 mlsmith@startribune.com • 612-673-4788

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