Online campaigns raise thousands for families of fallen paratroopers
By DREW BROOKS | The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. | Published: August 5, 2017
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (Tribune News Service) — Gov. Roy Cooper has ordered flags at state facilities lowered to half-staff in tribute to two Fort Bragg soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan this week.
Meanwhile, supporters have raised more than $60,000 to help support the families of the paratroopers.
Spc. Christopher Michael Harris and Sgt. Jonathan Michael Hunter were killed in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday after their convoy was attacked with a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device, the Pentagon said late Thursday.
The soldiers belonged to the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division and had been deployed a little more than a month each.
Harris, 25, lived in Jackson Springs in Moore County, according to officials. Hunter, 23, was from Columbus, Indiana.
On Friday morning, Cooper ordered all United States and North Carolina flags outside state facilities lowered until sunset Monday.
At the same time Cooper issued his order, Internet fundraising campaigns for the two families continued to grow.
A spokesman for GoFundMe confirmed that campaigns on behalf of the Harris and Hunter families had been verified. As of 2 p.m., a campaign for Harris's wife, Britt, at gofundme.com/48091y8 had raised nearly $41,000. The campaign states that Britt Harris recently discovered that she and her husband were expecting their first child.
Two campaigns for Hunter's family had raised more than $16,500 and nearly $3,500, respectively. The campaigns, at gofundme.com/support-for-sgt-jonathon-hunter and gofundme.com/jonathon-hunter-funeral have the stated goals of supporting Hunter's wife, Whitney, and his father, Mark Hunter.
The two soldiers were in Afghanistan in support of the Resolute Support Mission to train, advise and assist Afghan forces.
The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack. NATO officials in Afghanistan said four other soldiers were wounded, but their injuries were not considered life-threatening.
There are about 15,500 coalition troops in Afghanistan in support of the 16-year-old war. About 8,400 of them are from the U.S. military, with more than 2,000 of that number hailing from Fort Bragg.
The 1st Brigade Combat Team has approximately 1,500 soldiers in Afghanistan, with troops in Kabul, Kandahar and other parts of the country.
Words of support and condolences have flooded social media sites, including Facebook pages dedicated to the 82nd Airborne Division and its 1st Brigade Combat Team.
Rep. Richard Hudson, whose 8th District includes Fort Bragg and Harris' Jackson Springs home, said the two soldiers died protecting their country.
"When Americans hear the news that a soldier has died, we all grieve together. Unfortunately, with the death of Chris Harris, it hits too close to home. My wife Renee and I join our community in mourning this overwhelming loss. Chris's death has left a void for his family that can't be filled, but we pray that God brings them peace and comfort. We also pray for the family of Jonathan Hunter and all of our paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division," Hudson said. "...This is a grave reminder of the dangers our men and women in uniform face every day in the ongoing fight to defeat terrorism and protect the United States. We will never forget them or their sacrifice."
In Hunter's native Indiana, Gov. Eric J. Holcomb also issued a statement of condolences.
"Words will never convey the sorrow that Janet and I feel for the loss of Sgt. Jonathan Michael Hunter, an Army sergeant and Columbus, Indiana, native killed in a NATO convoy attack in Afghanistan," Holcomb said. "We offer our prayers for his family and friends and ask all Hoosiers to honor his selfless service to our country."
Other lawmakers in Indiana also weighed in on the loss.
Sen. Joe Donnelly said Hunter's service and sacrifice will never be forgotten. Rep. Luke Messer said the paratrooper was a "true American hero."
And Sen. Todd Young said the state was immensely grateful for his service.
"By all accounts, Sgt. Hunter was a man of notable kindness to his friends and loved ones, great athletic talent, and he selflessly and honorably served his country," Young said. "I am saddened by the news of his passing, but proud of the man that he was."
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