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HEROES 2013

'Their lives were in his hands'

This image was taken on Senior Airman Mark Forester's camera the same day he and Army Sgt. First Class Calvin Harrison, (pictured to the left) were killed. Forester was awarded the Silver Star posthumously, for leading the team to rescue his fallen comrade, Harrison. Forester was fatally shot by enemy sniper fire in the rescue attempt during the battle Sept. 29, 2010 in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan.

As a member of the elite Special Forces, Sgt. 1st Class Calvin Harrison would often find himself in harm’s way as his unit’s medic, responsible for charging into hotspots to provide aid to his fellow troopers downed by enemy fire.

On the Green Beret A-Team, every member has his unique role to play. Harrison’s was team medic.

“When his fellow soldier went down, it was Sgt. Harrison that jumped to his rescue,” Rep. Ted Poe, a congressman from Harrison’s home state of Texas, said during a speech honoring the fallen Green Beret. “His comrades knew at a very practical level: Their lives were in his hands.”

On Sept. 29, 2010, Harrison was killed by enemy fire in Afghanistan. His heroics on that day would result in Harrison being recognized posthumously with the Silver Star — the military’s third-highest decoration for gallantry on the battlefield. Details about his efforts remain unclear. Since his family is yet to be presented with the medal citation the Army said it could not release details of Harrison’s heroics. But some information is known.

Harrison and Air Force Senior Airman Mark Forester were advancing on a suspected enemy ambush site when they were killed in action.

“As the patrol moved into the village, it came under intense enemy machine gun and sniper fire,” according to a Silver Star citation for Forester, who also was killed that day while exposing himself to enemy fire.

Forester, a member of the 21st Special Tactics Squadron, also was posthumously recognized with the Silver Star in connection with efforts to rescue Harrison, who had been fatally wounded by small-arms fire.

It was a small team on patrol in the hostile Uruzgan province — just Harrison, Forester, three other U.S. soldiers and an eight-man team of Afghans.

“As the team flanked the insurgent position, they again came under effective enemy machine gun and sniper fire,” according to Forester’s citation.

Outgunned and outmanned, the team fought on, losing Harrison and Forester in the process.

“His 7th Special Forces Group was very close,” Poe said. “They had all gone through the same rigorous training and knew that when their lives depended on it, they could trust each other.”

Harrison, who joined the Army in 1998, became a Green Beret in 2007.

During his visits back to his hometown of Cleveland, Texas, he couldn’t talk much about his job. But he would often speak of his love for soldiering. He died doing what he loved, according to family accounts.

“Sgt. Harrison couldn’t talk too much about his job — it was top secret — but he didn’t mind,” Poe said. “He wasn’t one to talk about himself too much. He just did it.”

vandiver.john@stripes.com

Heroes 2013: Ordinary people or something more?

Honored for valor and bravery in battle, those dubbed heroes often deflect praise saying they did only what others, in their boots, would have done.

Join the conversation and share your voice.

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