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Rescue Hose Co. No. 1 in Greencastle honors fallen soldier

April 27, 2011|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com
  • A memorial plaque on the front wall at Rescue Hose Co. No. 1 includes the name of Benjamin Bitner. Bitner died recently while on patrol with his U.S. Army unit in Afghanistan.
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

A Green Beret who grew up in Greencastle, Pa., and served in several hotspots around the world was killed Saturday by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan, U.S. Army officials said.

Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin F. Bitner, 37, was serving his sixth tour of duty when he was killed in Kandahar province, according to information provided by U.S. Army Special Forces Command (Airborne) at Fort Bragg, N.C.

In addition to serving in Afghanistan, Bitner had served in Africa, Kosovo, Kuwait and Iraq.

Born July 4, 1973, Bitner was a 1991 graduate of Greencastle-Antrim High School in Greencastle.

Brian Barkdoll, administrator of Rescue Hose Co. No. 1 in Greencastle, said Bitner volunteered to be a member of the fire department when he was 18, but left to join the Army a short time later. Barkdoll said firefighters on Monday placed Bitner's name on a plaque on one of the exterior walls of the firehouse to honor the fallen soldier.

He said firefighters typically put the names of dead fire company members on the plaque and take them down after the funeral, but in this case, "it might be up for a little while."

Christin Michaud, a spokeswoman for mortuary affairs at Dover (Del.) Air Force Base, said that Bitner's body had arrived at the base from overseas. She said the family didn't want information about him to be made public.

Bitner joined the Army in 1991 and graduated from the Special Forces Qualification Course as an engineer sergeant in 1999, according to Special Forces Command.

 In addition to Green Beret training, Bitner completed other rigorous military courses, including Special Forces Sniper; Survival, Evasion Resistance and Escape; Military Free Fall and Summer and Winter Basic Mountain Warfare.

Bitner had been awarded six Bronze Star medals and one Purple Heart.   

Bitner is survived by his wife April, his sons, Gunnar and Rogue, and his parents, Roger and Beverly Bitner, Special Forces Command said.

Bitner's funeral service will be held at Boles Funeral Home and Crematory in Southern Pines, N.C., a funeral home official said. Further information, including the date and time of the funeral, was unavailable.

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