Dustin Harrison, who was named by family members as one of the Americans who were murdered in a terrorist attack on a base in Kenya, was a contract pilot for the U.S. military remembered as a hero and a “patriot.”
Those words came from his brother to King5, a television station in Harrison’s native Washington State. However, it’s a sentiment shared by many, judging from the outpouring of community support for his family. Harrison lived with his family in Gilbert, Arizona.
Harrison was a married father. Harrison’s wife Hope has repeatedly shared her grief and love for Dustin on her Facebook page. “Received the heart wrenching call this evening that my beautiful husband was one of the casualties from the terrorist attack that took place early this morning,” she wrote in one heartbreaking post.
“My world is completely shattered. My worst fear is now my reality. The pain is unbearable. Please keep myself and our family in your prayers. My beautiful husband ~ My Silent Hero, you will never be forgotten. I’m so proud of you babe and I will love you until my very last breath. Thank you for giving me a piece of Heaven on earth. Mama, Daddy…please welcome your son in law with open arms. My life will never be the same. I pray Trump shows no mercy. Fly high my handsome pilot. ? I love you forever Dustin Harrison.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Harrison Was One of Three Americans Killed When Al-Qaeda Linked Terrorists Overran a Kenyan Base
Harrison was contracted to “fly aircraft for the U.S. military,” according to Stripes.com, which reported that he was killed by Somali militants who attacked a Kenyan base.
King5.com reported that Harrison was one of three Americans killed “when Al-Shabab extremists overran a key military base used by U.S. counter-terror forces” on Sunday, January 5, 2020. He was a U.S. Department of Defense contract pilot, the television station reported.
In addition to Harrison, the U.S. Department of Defense announced the death “of a soldier who was supporting Operation Octave Shield.” Spc. Henry J. Mayfield Jr., 23, from Evergreen Park, Illinois, was killed Jan. 5, 2020, “during an attack in Manda Bay, Kenya. The incident is under investigation.”
The third deceased American’s identity is not yet clear but that person is also a contractor. According to ABC 15, the terrorists are linked to Al-Qaeda and based in nearby Somalia, and they overran the base called Manda Bay Airfield, where Americans were stationed to give “counterterror support to East African partners.”
2. There Is a GoFundMe Page to Help Harrison’s Children & His Wife & the Community Planted 150 Flags on His Street
The community has given the Harrisons an outpouring of support. Among the most visible: 150 American flags were planted on his block with the most at his home, according to 12News.
“When someone has lost their life in service to their country, there is nothing any of us can do to repay that debt.” Dave Rosenfeld, Harrison’s neighbor said to the Arizona television station.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Harrison’s family. It’s raised almost $18,000. You can find the page here.
Christie Clothier organized the fundraiser. “My dear sweet beautiful friend Hope Harrison lost her wonderful, caring husband Dustin Harrison in the terrorist attack in Kenya,” she wrote.
“I am asking for any help as she is the mom of three boys and their beautiful 2 year old daughter Heaven. As anyone can imagine how devastating and heartbreaking this is for their family. She can use all the love, prayers, support. Any financial support would be appreciate at this time of grieving for their family. His wife Hope Harrison is the beneficiary to this account, all funds will be going directly to her and her family.”
3. Harrison & His Wife Were Married Three Years & Described as ‘Soulmates’ Who Shared a Daughter Named Heaven
The GoFundMe page says that Dustin “was a contracted pilot and was set to come home this Friday January 10th. Hope and Dustin found one another and have been married for 3 years. They were each other’s soulmate, the love of her life. Dustin was such a sweet soul, quiet but courageous. And will forever be our hero.”
He filled his Facebook page with pictures of his baby and then toddler daughter, writing in 2017, “Meet Heaven Avianna Harrison. Born Sept 7 at 11:45pm 8lbs 8oz 21.5″. Couldn’t be more perfect ?”
Harrison’s wife, Hope, wrote an ode to him on Facebook after his death. “My dearest husband, my love; your baby and I will see you soon ?” she wrote. “Heading to Dover AFB in Delaware where they will hold a reception for our Hero as he lands on U.S. soil ?? I’m so so proud of you my angel. Completely shattered ? I love you so so much babe – I cannot do this without you Dustin Harrison.”
She shared a heartbreaking series of photos showing military officers interacting with the couple’s young daughter to console her when Hope and the girl went to get Dustin’s body. “They’re taking good care of her – her daddy wouldn’t have wanted it any other way ? Now we wait until our Hero arrives,” she wrote.
Hope is a certified personal trainer at a YMCA and a former realtor who lives in Tucson. She shared the above photo and wrote, “This is the day we celebrated you becoming a daddy, I took a picture because the thought of you being a father made me fall in love with you all over again. Today, this picture makes me fall in love with you all over again, but for a different reason ♥️ I love you my beloved husband ~ My Hero.”
On January 7, 2020, she wrote, “My husbands remains were retuned to U.S. soil at 2:45am. It was the most dignified, honorable and heart crushing transfer. We blew you kisses babe. My beautiful angel, my beloved husband…I’m so lost without you ?”
A friend responded, “Such an awesome, amazing, beautiful person! He will be missed. Remember the day you told me about finding him. I was so happy that you finally met the perfect person. But the best thing in the world is him giving you the most beautiful little girl. He will live on. Love ya Hope. I’m so sorry for your loss.”
4. Harrison Wanted to Serve His Country But Knew It Was Too Late to Join the Military
Troy Harrison, Dustin’s older brother, told King5 that Dustin had a desire to serve his country. He felt he could do that as a contract pilot because he felt he was too old to join the military.
“You think you know somebody and then you really don’t, because the outpouring of love for my brother, whew, it’s just unbelievable,” said Troy to the television station. “I mean people from all over the world have reached out, and in some way my brother has affected them.”
Dustin’s neighbor told 12News Harrison was “a pilot through and through.”
5. Dustin Was a Graduate of a Washington High School, the State In Which He Was Raised
Harrison was a graduate of Auburn High School in Auburn, Washington. “It is with great sadness that I was asked to share these photos in honor of our 1990 classmate and friend, Dustin Harrison,” wrote Michelle Nelson Neel. She shared a photo collage.
“Thank you for your service and sacrifice for our Country. Rest In Peace ?” she wrote. Another classmate wrote, “Heartbroken to learn of Dustin’s death. Such a kind classmate with a great sense of humor. My deepest condolences to his wife and family.” He was in the class of 1990.
On Facebook, Harrison said he studied at Spartan College of Aeronautics and went to Auburn Senior High School.