Recalling the Life of Lt. Noah Harris
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
First Lieutenant Noah Harris was a member of the 3rd Infantry Division. He was killed, along with three others, north of Baghdad when Iraqi insurgents fired a rocked-propelled grenade at an Army Humvee. From member station WUGA in Athens, Georgia, Mary Kay Mitchell has this remembrance.
MARY KAY MITCHELL reporting:
Just like everything that Noah Harris attempted, he plunged wholeheartedly into college life. Despite coming from a small mountain town with less than 2,000 inhabitants, Noah was in his element while leading 92,000 screaming football fans in a University of Georgia cheer.
(Soundbite of crowd cheering)
MITCHELL: Harris was captain of the varsity cheerleading squad at the university. Back at Gilmer High School in Ellijay, Georgia, he was captain of the football team and a state wrestling champion. Under 5'10", however, Harris was too short to play running back in the Southeastern Conference. So he put his considerable strength, athletic ability and school spirit to good use along the sidelines.
Ms. SHELLY GORBIESKY(ph) (Cheerleader): I got to start with Noah during many pyramids.
MITCHELL: Fellow cheerleader Shelly Gorbiesky.
Ms. GORBIESKY: You totally trusted him when he put you up because you knew he was going to catch you no matter what. No matter how it came down, if he was going to get an elbow in the face or end up being on the ground, he would definitely be underneath you.
MITCHELL: Friends say Harris himself was confident but not cocky, good-looking but not arrogant. He interned in Washington and joined ROTC immediately after 9/11. And Harris was selected for the first class of the prestigious Leadership Scholars Program in the business school. Finance Professor James Link was his adviser.
Professor JAMES LINK (University of Georgia): The guy always had a smile on his face. He wasn't a complainer. He was an optimist, and that's probably what I'm going to remember the most. He was always happy and always was on to the next thing.
MITCHELL: Harris' enthusiasm for life was infectious. Classmate Christina Reeve(ph) says she learned so much from being paired with him in the Leadership Program.
Ms. CHRISTINA REEVE (Classmate): I was really shy, and Noah was so outgoing and loud and boisterous (laughs). And I can just remember, like, I would always be the one who worried about everything, and somehow Noah just never worried and always got it done.
MITCHELL: Harris established that same easy rapport with everyone, taking the attention off himself and making others feel important. Shelly Gorbiesky observed how well Harris interacted with all kinds of people, including children.
Ms. GORBIESKY: He just gets down to their level and, you know, would play with them, would--if it was a boy, he'd kind of rough and tumble with him. And he just had that personality about him.
MITCHELL: In fact, Harris was so drawn to children that he initiated Operation Noah's Dream. He asked friends and family to send him as many Beanie Babies as possible so he could give them to children in Iraq. His management professor and friend, Melanie Ranko(ph), says Harris was one of those rare individuals who truly lived what he believed.
Professor MELANIE RANKO (Harris' Friend): At the service they gave out some dog tags that had his name and the date that he died and then a little acronym of a philosophy that he had. It's called, `I do what I can.' And it's IDWIC, `I do what I can.' And that's how Noah is going to leave a legacy in terms of us trying to use it to realize that every day we have an opportunity to do what I can.
MITCHELL: The public memorial service for Army First Lieutenant Noah Harris, the only child of Rick and Lucy Harris, was held in his beloved hometown of Ellijay, Georgia, on what would have been his 24th birthday. For NPR News, I'm Mary Kay Mitchell in Athens, Georgia.