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Joshua Harris, a former Forest Park resident who attended grade school in the village, was killed earlier this week while serving the Illinois Army National Guard in Afghanistan. According to family members and military reports, Harris was one of two National Guard soldiers from Illinois who died Sept. 17 at the hands of an improvised explosive device.


Harris, 21, was born and raised in Forest Park and is a 2006 graduate of Walther Lutheran High School in Melrose Park.


“The way we feel now is it’s a wound that we don’t know how deep it has to be before it can heal,” Bill Harris, the soldier’s father, said.


Joshua Harris’ father and stepmother, Bill and Jean Harris, live in Brookfield, and his mother, Mille Harris-Hickey, has relocated to the far west suburbs. While living in Forest Park, Harris attended grade school at St. John’s Lutheran School on Circle Avenue.


It was a lifelong dream of Harris’ to serve in the military, according to family members, and he enlisted with the National Guard while he was still in high school. Don Gillingham, executive director of Walther Lutheran High School, remembered Harris as the kid who always wore a smile but felt a deep sense of purpose.


“He felt like he was doing something important,” Gillingham said of Harris’ military aspirations. “He had that. His life had purpose. His life had meaning.”


Harris, a specialist in the Illinois Army National Guard, died alongside Sgt. Jason Vazquez, a 24-year-old Chicago resident. Both men were assigned to Battery B, 2nd Battalion, 122nd Field Artillery of Robbins, Ill.


Harris was deployed to Afghanistan in late August. He was posthumously promoted to the rank of sergeant.

 

For complete coverage of this story read the Sept. 24 issue of the Forest Park Review, or online at forestparkreview.com.