Friday, March 09, 2007

Blake Harris dies of injuries from I.E.D.

Army Cpl. Blake Harris of Pueblo was a veteran of one combat tour in Iraq when the 1st Cavalry Division was sent back last October.

"He told me he needed to be there with his buddies," explained Deborah Harris, his grieving mother. "He was proud to be in the Army."

Blake Harris, 22, was killed Monday by a roadside bomb about 50 miles northeast of Baghdad. The 1st Cavalry Division has been in hard fighting and has lost more than 60 soldiers since returning in October.

"Blake was very close to some of those guys," his widow, Joanna, said Wednesday.

The couple, who met as students at South High School, have a 2-year-old son, Jonah. They corresponded every day if they could by e-mail, phone and instant messaging.

"It didn't matter, we used any excuse to talk to each other," Mrs. Harris said. "Blake could light up any room he was in."

Harris had talked about the hard fighting on this tour, according to his mother.

"He told me they lost eight guys in one week," Deborah Harris said. "I asked him if he'd been there when it happened and he said, ‘Mom, you want to know the truth?’ And then he got real silent because he had.”

Harris also is survived by his father, John Harris, of Denver.

No services have been planned yet. Harris' body is expected to arrive in the U.S. today.

A 2002 graduate of South, Harris joined the Army right after graduation. His father had served in the Army in Vietnam, also in the 1st Cavalry Division, and Harris spent three years in ROTC while in high school. "He was the funniest guy I've ever known," said Michael Reese, 27, a longtime friend who met Harris skateboarding in Pueblo. "He could crack me up in a minute. I don't know anyone who didn't like Blake."

His widow said Harris was a dedicated father and the couple shared a love of music and friends.

"Blake had the biggest CD collection in the world," Joanna Harris said, managing a laugh despite her tears. "And he was a master barbecuer. We teased him pretty hard because he could take forever to barbecue a chicken, but he was good at it."

Harris' mother said he was devoted to his wife and child. "His one worry about going back to Iraq was that his baby would forget him," she said.

Truman Pooler, a family friend who had known Harris since he was a small boy, said the young man was outgoing and kind.

Pooler's son, Jared, is a staff sergeant in the Army, also stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, the home base of the 1st Cavalry Division. Harris and Jared Pooler would talk about their experiences in Iraq.

"It was something for me to see those two talking together, not kids anymore but men, two soldiers who had done the same things," Pooler said with deep emotion. "Blake was like another son to me."

Both Harris' wife and mother said he was very proud to be a soldier, despite the hardships of going to Iraq. He had re-enlisted not long ago and was starting his fifth year in the Army.

"I think he would have made a career out of it," Deborah Harris said.

From the Chieftan