PUEBLO, CO, USA U.S. Army SGT, HHT, 1ST SQUADRON, 12TH CAVALRY, 3 BCT, (25 ID), FORT HOOD, TX 03/05/2007, BAQUBAH, IRAQ
Blake Harris’ dad, John, spent 11 years in the Army, and Blake followed suit. He spent three years with the ROTC at South High School in Pueblo. When Blake Harris graduated from high school in 2002, he enlisted. Deborah Harris, Blake’s mother, said her son made his decision after a recruiter came to campus.
“He came home, and said, ‘Mom, I’m going to join the Army. I’m going to serve my country,’ ” his mother recalled. “It was in his blood for sure.”
Sergeant Blake Harris was killed Monday, March 5 2007 by a command detonated IED while he was riding in a Humvee patrolling the streets of Baghdad. Also killed were Private Barry W. Mayo and Corporal Ryan D. Russell. Blake Harris was 22 years old.
“He was my only son,” his mother said.
Sergeant Harris was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas. When Harris returned to Iraq for his second tour of duty in October, he was devastated when insurgents killed nine members of his unit, his mother said. Then he lost another eight during more combat operations.
Red-haired and jovial — a self-described “class clown” at South High School — he had been among the group of Pueblo skateboarders who lobbied City Council in 2001-02 to create a skateboard park for the young people who loved to cruise on their boards around the city, chattering down stairs or jumping them onto tables.
Monday, some of Harris’s family and friends gathered around the skate park in City Park, American flags snapping in the unforgiving wind as Council President Larry Atencio, Councilman Leroy Garcia and former Councilman Randy Thurston officially renamed the concrete bowls and ramps the Sergeant Blake A. Harris Skateboard Park. Harris’ official Army portrait is featured on the sign along with the somber words, “All gave some, some gave all.”
The occasion drew about 60 people to watch and listen. Army Captain Lisa Northway, a Fort Carson chaplain, praised Harris as a role model for Pueblo’s young people.
“They will be inspired by Blake Harris and his life,” she told the audience, which included more than a dozen skateboarders in T-shirts and jeans, who were perched on the park’s concrete ramps and steps to listen in the sunshine. It wasn’t hard to imagine Harris among them.
“Sergeant Harris was instrumental in getting this park built,” Atencio, an Army veteran, said during his brief remarks. “It will mean a lot to me to know that this park will always be here in his memory.”
“Blake loved to skate,” his father-in-law, Larry Wagner, said with a wry smile. Wagner had just returned from visiting his daughter, Joanna Harris, at Fort Hood, Texas, where Harris was stationed. Along with their son Jonah, Joanna Harris has remained in Texas since her husband’s death.
“Even before he and Joanna married, I can remember seeing Blake skateboarding around town, covering a lot of distance on that board,” Larry Wagner recalled.
The young soldier’s mother, Deborah Harris, of Pueblo, brought scrapbooks and photographs to Monday’s ceremony. They showed poignant photographs of Blake Harris having fun.
“He would have been very pleased to see this,” she said before the service began, looking at the flags surrounding the refurbished park.
Harris’ father, John Harris, of Denver, wore his 1st Cavalry Division hat to the service. A Vietnam veteran, Harris and his son both had served in the well-known “1st Cav.”
“It’s hard to believe it’s been three years,” the older Harris said softly.
Truman Pooler, a neighbor and friend of Harris,’ was holding an American flag being severely tested by the wind. He said the young Army sergeant had been a good friend to Pooler’s two sons, Thadd and Jared, who are also in service —Thadd in the Marines, Jared in the Army.
“Blake was a redhead, just like my boys. And just a real good kid,” Pooler said slowly, making each word count. Then he repeated it for emphasis. “A. . .real. . .good. . .kid.”