Thursday, February 15, 2007

Jennifer J. Harris killed in helicopter crash

A Marine captain from Swampscott, who tackled the rigors of the US Naval Academy and became a helicopter pilot, died Wednesday in a crash during her third tour in Iraq, according to a town veteran official.

Captain Jennifer Harris, 28, was the second Swampscott native to die in the war. This morning, firefighters hung black and purple memorial bunting on the sides of their station on Burrill Street. Flags also flew at half-staff at the police station next door.

James Schultz, the veteran's agent in town and a Swampscott police detective, said he had known Harris since she was senior at Swampscott High School in 1996. He said he visited her family shortly after the military notified them about her death.

A CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter crashed on Wednesday in a field in Anbar province, about 20 miles from Baghdad. All seven people onboard died, according to the Associated Press.

Harris went to the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., where she graduated in 2000. Schultz said she chose the most difficult path at the academy when she decided to be trained as a Marine officer.

"She liked to take on the challenges," Schultz said.

This morning a steady parade of cars stopped by her family's greenish ranch-style home on Elwin Street in Swampscott. A flag in the backyard flew at half-staff. A note on the door asked that the media: "Please respect our privacy. Thanks."

"Jennifer Harris exemplified the best of what this country has to offer," her family said in statement read to the media at the Swampscott VFW hall. "She was proud to be a Marine and proud to serve her country."

Harris was an only child. Her father "was incredibly proud of his daughter," Schultz said.

During Harris' first tour, her father remained relatively calm, Schultz said. He grew a little more apprehensive during her second, and by the third tour, "He seemed to be a little more pensive," Schultz said. The family was devastated by her death.

From the Globe