Hagerstown native killed in Afghanistan

April 25, 2011|By DAVE MCMILLION |
  • Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin F. Bitner
Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin F. Bitner

GREENCASTLE, Pa. — A Hagerstown native and 1991 graduate of Greencastle-Antrim High School who was described by a former assistant principal as “happy-go-lucky” died Saturday in Kandahar province in Afghanistan, according to U.S. military officials.

Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin F. Bitner, 37, died after suffering wounds when insurgents attacked his unit using an improvised explosive device, the Department of Defense announced Monday.

Bitner, who was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, N.C., was an 18-year career soldier in the U.S. Army, according to the Department of Defense.

Bitner, who was born July 4, 1973, was deployed in various operations around the world, including four deployments to Afghanistan, according to the U.S. Army Special Forces Command Public Affairs Office.

Greg Hoover, superintendent of the Greencastle-Antrim School District, said he has known Bitner’s family for many years. He was an assistant principal at Greencastle-Antrim Middle School when Bitner was a student there.

Hoover said he was in charge of student discipline while working as an assistant principal, and he recalled having Bitner in his office.

Hoover said he and Bitner were always able to work out issues, and on Monday afternoon he described Bitner as “just a good kid. I’d describe him as happy-go-lucky.”

Bitner was a member of Rescue Hose Co. No. 1 in Greencastle, Fire Chief Kevin Barnes said.

Hoover, who also is a member of the fire department, said Bitner’s father was the department’s fire chief many years ago.

Barnes described Bitner as “a good guy” and said the department’s focus will be supporting Bitner’s family.

Bitner lived in North Carolina with his wife, April, and sons, Gunnar and Rogue.

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