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Soldier from Franklin County wounded in Iraq

November 30, 1999|By DON AINES

WAYNESBORO, Pa. ? For the third time in two months, a soldier from Franklin County has been wounded during fighting in Iraq.

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Robert Harr was shot in the face by a sniper Tuesday during fighting with insurgents in the Haifa Street area of Baghdad, said his mother, Patricia Barnett. He underwent initial surgery in Iraq, and now is at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Ramstein, Germany, she said.

"He's doing fine," Barnett said, although her son is in a lot of pain from the injuries.

Harr, 38, a 1986 graduate of Waynesboro Area Senior High School, was injured four days after Spc. Corey J. O'Connor, a 2002 Waynesboro graduate, was wounded by a roadside bomb in Hawijah, Iraq. O'Connor now is recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

The same day O'Connor was injured ? Jan. 5 ? Sgt. Edward W. "Eddie" Shaffer of Mont Alto, Pa., also a 2002 Waynesboro graduate, was buried near Chambersburg, Pa. Shaffer was wounded Nov. 13 by a roadside bomb in Ramadi, Iraq, and died Dec. 27 at Brooke Army Medical Center near San Antonio, Texas.

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Harr was teamed with an Iraqi army unit that engaged snipers in the Karkh section of the Iraqi capital, Barnett said. A round struck him under the right eye, went through his sinuses, severed an artery to his right ear and lodged in the bone near his ear, she said.

"It's really a miracle of God" that Harr was not killed, she said.

Barnett said her son called her from Iraq on Wednesday.

"He just wanted to let me hear his voice and let me know he's OK," she said. Harr arrived in Landstuhl on Thursday, she said.

Heavy fighting has been going on for about a week between U.S. and Iraqi army forces on one side and Sunni militants on the other. Haifa Street has been the scene of heavy fighting in the past, and has earned the nickname "Purple Heart Boulevard" from GIs, according to The New York Times.

Harr joined the Army right out of high school, his mother said. Previous overseas assignments included Germany, two tours in Korea and Kosovo. He went to Iraq about a year ago, she said.

"He was supposed to be home at the end of February," she said.

Barnett said her son soon could be transferred to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and he told her he wants to be with his wife, Lucy, in time for their wedding anniversary on Jan. 19.

Barnett did not know what unit Harr was serving with at the time he was wounded. In April, however, he was with the 1st Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division's Military Transition Team.

Harr was part of a 12-man unit called "The Shepherds" that worked closely with the Iraqi military, his mother said. A Christmas card shows him with members of the unit, armed and wearing Santa Claus hats.

"He worked with a really great bunch of guys and he became close with the Iraqi officers," she said.

The soldier also cared for the people of Iraq, Barnett said, asking family members to ship over Wiffle balls and bats and stuffed toys for the children. One photo shows him sitting in a Humvee with an Iraqi girl who was clutching a Big Bird stuffed animal.

It was last April that Harr was promoted to sergeant first class. The man who pinned the new insignia to Harr's fatigues was Sgt. Ray Ruiz, Harr's stepson, who also was serving in Iraq.

Barnett said Ruiz, now back in the U.S., has served two tours in Iraq.

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