A North Carolina soldier who recently learned his wife is pregnant was killed in Afghanistan during his first deployment after a suicide bomber attacked a NATO convoy, officials and his family say.
Harris and Hunter were both assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 504th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, the Pentagon said in a press release.
“The entire Devil Brigade is deeply saddened by the loss of two beloved team members. Chris and Jon lived and died as warriors,” Colonel Toby Magsig, commander of 1st Brigade Combat Team, said in a statement from the 82nd Airborne. “They will always be a part of the legacy of the Devil Brigade and their memory lives on in the hearts and minds of their fellow Paratroopers. Our thoughts and prayers are centered on the families and loved ones of these two great Americans.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Harris & Hunter Were Killed When a Vehicle-Borne IED Blew Up Near Their Convoy After 32 Days in Afghanistan
Sergeant Jonathon Michael Hunter, 23, and Specialist Christopher Michael Harris, 25, both members of the same Fort Bragg unit, were killed on August 2 in Kandahar “as a result of injuries sustained when a vehicle-borne improved explosive device detonated near their convoy,” the Department of Defense said Thursday.
Hunter’s father, Mark, a veteran, told the Associated Press that his son and their unit had been in Afghanistan for 32 days before the fatal attack.
The NATO convoy was moving through the southern Afghan city when it was attacked by a Taliban suicide bomber, who rammed his vehicle into the convoy, the New York Times reports. Zia Durani, a spokesman for the Kandahar governor, told the Tiems that the convoy came under attack in the area of Shorandam, which is on the main road from Kandahar Airfield, one of the largest American bases in Afghanistan. Four others were wounded in the attack.
Another convoy was attacked Thursday night, with one NATO soldier killed and six others injured, according to Stars and Stripes. The soldier who died in that incident has not been identified. According to Stars and Stripe, the Taliban has not yet claimed responsibility for the Thursday attack, which occurred near Bagram Air Field, the largest military base in the country. According to Stars and Stripes, a “motorbike bomb” was the cause of the casualties Thursday.
Nine U.S. servicemen, including Hunter and Harris, have been killed in action in Afghanistan this year. It is not yet known if the soldier killed Thursday night was American or from one of the 38 other countries who make up the NATO coalition, according to Stars and Stripes.
2. He & His Wife Were Married in October & They Recently Discovered She Is in the Early Week of Pregnancy
Specialist Chris Harris’ wife, Britt Harris, wrote on Facebook that they recently learned she is pregnant.
“As the news spreads about the two soldiers killed in action yesterday in Afghanistan it is with a very heavy and broken heart that I confirm one of them was my husband Chris Harris,” she wrote Wednesday night. “We had recently discovered I am in the very early weeks of pregnancy. Right now that is my main concern and I want to try and make sure everything continues to be healthy considering these crushing circumstances. I know you will all be respectful as I ask to be left alone. Thank you.”
The couple was married on October 16, 2015, according to her Facebook page.
“He was a hero before this. He will always be a hero,” Britt Harris told WNCN-TV. “I want him to have the recognition he deserves. He was so happy to hear I was pregnant and I want our child to grow up knowing what an incredible force his or her father carried throughout life.”
3. Harris, a Native of Jackson Springs, Enlisted in the Army in 2013
Chris Harris was a native of Jackson Springs, North Carolina. He enlisted in the Army in October 2013 and was in his first deployment, the Department of Defense said.
“Spc. Christopher Harris was an extraordinary young man and a phenomenal Paratrooper,” Colonel Toby Magsig said in a statement. “He regularly displayed the type of courage, discipline, and empathy that the Nation expects from its warriors.”
Harris spent most of his life in Moore County and moved to Carthage after his wedding, WNCN-TV reports.
“Seeing him when he settled down with his wife, like it was just that’s where he was supposed to be,” his friend, Angel Martinez, whose husband is also in the military, told the news station. “It was awesome seeing him grow, he should be becoming a father and he’s gonna miss all that. The whole (military) community, you see it in their eyes. Everybody knows him, it’s Chris Harris. He walks into a room and you know he’s there. Never a dull moment when he’s around, such energy he brings to everything he does.”
4. A GoFundMe Page Set Up by Britt Harris’ Friend Has Raised More Than $30,000 for Chris’ Family
“This account is being made for the wife of a true war hero named Chris Harris. These funds will go towards helping Britt, his loving wife, keep a steady handle on bills and expenses as they arise. Chris lost his life by a Taliban suicide bomber in Afghanistan on August 2, 2017 along with another great American soldier,” Stone wrote on the page. “Britt has recently discovered that she and Chris were expecting their first child. During this time, money should be the absolute least important thing on her mind. If you feel it in your heart to donate to this cause, it would be kindly appreciated. Thank you all for reading our story.”
It is not the first tragedy Britt Harris has dealt with this summer. In early July, just after Chris Harris deployed, Britt’s friend died after giving birth to her daughter, according to Harris’ Facebook page. Britt Harris started a GoFundMe page to help her friend’s husband and newborn daughter, raising more than $12,000 for them.
5. Hunter, an Indiana Native, Was Also Married in October
Sergeant Jonathon Hunter, of Columbus, Indiana, was also recently married. He and his wife, Whitney Stewart Hunter, were married on October 26, 2016, nine day after Harris’ wedding.
Chesney Colleen Kelley Wilson, Whitney Hunter’s close friend, wrote on Facebook that Whitney told her, “‘He sacrificed his life [for our country] and in turn I sacrificed my husband.'”
Hunter, who enlisted in 2014, was in his first deployment, the 82nd Airborne said.
“Sgt. Jonathon Hunter was the leader we all want to work for – strong, decisive, compassionate, and courageous. He was revered by his Paratroopers and respected throughout his unit,” Colonel Toby Magsig said in a statement.
Hunter was a standout football player at Columbus East High School in Indiana, his local newspaper, The Republic, reports. He graduated in 2011.
He pursued a career in music, as a producer, in Nashville after high school, before enrolling at Indiana State University in 2014, studying criminal justice for a year, his father told the Associated Press. He then decided to join the Army, because he didn’t want to burden his father with his college tuition.
“After he got into school — and of course we were struggling with bills, to pay for it — he decided to join. He said, ‘Dad, I know that going into the military I can get a free education,'” Mark Hunter told the AP.
Hunter’s father, Mark, told the Associated Press military service runs in the family, dating back to the Civil War.
“I’m just proud of him. He was a great soldier. He made (sergeant) in a little over three years, which is pretty rare, they tell me,” Mark Hunter said.
Two GoFundMe pages, one set set up by Mark Hunter’s friend and another started by a friend of Whitney Hunter, have raised more than $12,000 for their families in a day. You can make a donation here or here.
You can read more about Sergeant Jonathon Hunter at the link below: