Navy SEAL from Lexington dies in Afghanistan
LEXINGTON ó This community is grieving the loss of one of its own ó a U.S. Navy SEAL died Saturday during combat operations in Afghanistan.
The Pentagon announced that Special Warfare Operator First Class SEAL Joshua Thomas Harris, a 36-year-old, highly decorated combat veteran, drowned after being swept away by turbulent waters while conducting a river crossing during combat operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
He was temporarily forward deployed to Afghanistan from his assignment at Naval Special Warfare Development Group in Virginia Beach, Va.
“Petty Officer Harris was an exemplary SEAL,” Capt. Scott Moore, commanding officer of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, said in a press release. “He served his country valorously during multiple combat tours to Afghanistan and Iraq. He was a brave warrior, SEAL role model, mature and reliable teammate and an absolute great American.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Petty Officer Harris’ family. His loss is deeply felt by the entire Naval Special Warfare community.”
Rear Admiral Garry Bonelli, commanding officer of Naval Special Warfare Command, said, “The entire Naval Special Warfare community is deeply saddened by the passing of our teammate, Petty Officer Josh Harris. He will always be remembered as a warrior, a leader and a patriot. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family and friends during this extremely difficult time.”
Harris was the son of Dr. Sam R. Harris and Evelyn Long Harris of U.S. 64 East in Lexington. He was a 1990 graduate of Lexington High School, where he was an “All County” and “All Conference” football player. He graduated from Davidson College in 1994 with a degree in studio art, then went on to pursue a master’s degree in architecture from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
His art has been on display at several showings on the East Coast, including the prestigious Lincoln Center in New York City.
Harris enlisted in the Navy on Aug. 23, 2000, reporting to Boot Camp at Naval Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Ill. on Sept. 7. After completing Boot Camp, he graduated from Quartermaster “A” School before reporting to Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training at Coronado, Calif. That training is the first step in becoming a U.S. Navy SEAL and is six months of the most demanding training in the military.
Upon graduating from Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, Harris completed an additional five months of SEAL Qualification Training before reporting to his first permanent duty station at SEAL Team Ten at Naval Amphibious Base in Little Creek, Va.
While onboard SEAL Team Ten, Harris completed many rigorous qualification courses preparing him for combat, including Static Line Parachutist, Naval Special Warfare Special Reconnaissance Scout, Naval Special Warfare Sniper, SEAL Diving Supervisor, Advanced Tactical Driving course and others. Harris distinguished himself during multiple combat deployments to Iraq with SEAL Team Ten while supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
On May 26, 2006, Harris transferred from SEAL Team Ten and began the demanding selection and training program at Naval Special Warfare Development Group. His training included Military Free-Fall, Naval Special Warfare Tactical First Response Medical Training, Survive Escape Resist Evade (SERE) 215 and 250 courses, Combat Pistol and Rifle Course and several other courses.
He completed the arduous training during the selection program and received orders to Naval Special Warfare Development Group as a member of Naval Special Warfare Tactical Development and Evaluation Squadron Two.
Harris received numerous awards during his career as a U.S. Navy SEAL, including the Bronze Star Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal with Combat “V” (Valor) Distinguishing Device, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat “V” (Valor) Distinguishing Device, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Combat Action Ribbon (Operation Iraqi Freedom), Combat Action Ribbon (Operation Enduring Freedom), Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Iraq Campaign Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (4) and Good Conduct Medal (2).
In addition to his parents, he is survived by a twin sister, Kiki Harris; a brother, S. Ranchor Harris III and his wife, Serina; and nephews Dylan and Chase.
A memorial service for Harris will be held at noon Saturday at First Baptist Church of Lexington with Dr. Tom King officiating. Inurnment will be at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. at a later date.