Bomb kills soldier, 21, of Patten


PATTEN (AP) – A 21-year-old soldier from Patten who enlisted in the Army after his high school graduation was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq, officials said Friday.

Spc. Dustin James Harris, a member of the 172nd Brigade Support Battalion in Fort Wainwright, Alaska, was on foot patrol Thursday with elements of the 101st Airborne Division in Beiji, 150 miles north of Baghdad, when the improvised explosive device detonated nearby, the Army said.

Word of Harris’ death spread quickly through this northern Penobscot County town and was confirmed by Gov. John Baldacci and members of the Maine congressional delegation.

Harris was a 2002 graduate of Katahdin High School in Stacyville, where his younger brother is a senior.

“He was just a wonderful young man and we’re going to miss him terribly,” said Principal Rae Bates, who remembered Harris as a good student and outstanding soccer player who was active in his church.

Bates said she had encouraged Harris to go on to college but he decided to join the military instead.

“I asked are you sure you really want to do this?’ It was so soon after 9/11,” she recalled.

Harris’ grieving family said it was not prepared to talk about their son’s death at this time.

Baldacci’s office said flags will be ordered flown at half-staff on the day of Harris’ funeral.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Specialist Harris’ family during this difficult time,” said Baldacci. “James served his state and his nation honorably and all of Maine mourns his loss.”