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Swansea soldier on duty in Iraq killed in accident

05:18 PM EST on Monday, January 26, 2009
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By Kate Bramson
Journal Staff Writer

Elizabeth Harrington, 21, talks about her brother, Army Staff Sgt. Kyle Harrington, 24, who was killed in Iraq on Saturday.

The Providence Journal / Connie Grosch

FALL RIVER — Army personnel arrived at two homes late Saturday afternoon to bring word that Army Sgt. Kyle J. Harrington, 24, who grew up in Swansea, died in an accident in Basra, Iraq, that day.

In Washington state, the Army messengers told his wife, Faith Harrington, the mother of his two young children, and at a Fall River apartment, an officer told his mother, Kathleen Harrington.

Then, Kathleen went to tell her only other child, daughter Elizabeth Harrington, 21, who lives with her and was at work.


Staff Sgt. Kyle Harrington, of Swansea, dies in Iraq

The Army has not released details of Harrington’s death, although his sister said yesterday that the family had just received a casualty report that stated the accident was under investigation and was “training duty-related” and “non-hostile.”

The family said Army personnel reported that someone in Harrington’s unit backed over him with a forklift.

The morning after she learned of his death, the sister Harrington always just called “Little Sis” said she woke up sobbing. In speaking yesterday of the man she never called by name but just “Big Brother,” Harrington smiled much, but she cried as well. She said the emotions come in waves, but the memories are all golden.

“I can’t be sad when I think of my brother,” she said. “I can’t think of one sad moment me and my brother ever had with each other.”

He was her best friend. Her confidant. Her hero.

She hopes people never stop talking to her about him.

“I don’t want anyone to see me on the street and say, ‘Oh, I don’t want to mention her brother,’ ” she said. “I want everyone to be at the funeral. If he’s looking down on his funeral, I want it to be so packed that people have to wait four hours to get in.”

When they were growing up –– they moved around, as their father was in the Navy, but they were in Swansea ever since she was in second grade –– he was the class clown, the one who made everyone around him laugh, his sister said.

“He liked to cause some problems. He was always the wild one,” she recalled, adding that she was more reserved and spent most of her time in the library.

“I used to follow him around like a puppy because he was the one having fun,” she said.

They fought, too, as siblings do, but something clicked when she was 13 and he was 16, she said, and from then on they were friends.

Harrington, who graduated from Swansea’s Case High School in 2003, was serving in the 542nd Maintenance Company, 80th Ordnance Battalion, 593rd Sustainment Brigade, Fort Lewis, Wash., at the time of his death.

He and his wife had children young, his sister says. Kyle was 18, and Faith was 16 when their first child, Joshua, who will celebrate his sixth birthday a week from today, was born. The couple married about a year after he was born, and Kyle Harrington left a month after that for Army basic training. The couple had a daughter, Kaylee, a little more than two years ago.

“Once he joined the Army, he just became a man,” his sister said. “He went from my teenage brother to a man overnight.”

And he loved those children, she said, and he worked hard to raise them the way his mother raised him and his sister.

“He was so proud of the way our mother raised us,” she said, stressing the beliefs and morals she instilled in her children.

Through it all, big brother and little sister remained close. They talked about everything in their lives, they kept in touch with MySpace pages so they could share photographs, and she’d take his call every time she could when he phoned her from Iraq –– even if she had customers looking at her and expecting her to help them at Tuesday Morning, the Seekonk store where she’s an assistant manager.

They had dreams together, which included his wife and two children and whomever she might marry some day. They were going to buy two houses in New Hampshire, near each other.

“I was going to have him walk me down the aisle when I got married,” she said. “I wanted my brother to give me away.”


Sooner, they were going fishing, she says. He had been in Iraq since April, and his time had been extended already, so he would have been there 18 months in all, but then, brother and sister had their minds set on a little place where they fished as children with their parents, at Frerichs Farm, in Warren.

Now, she’ll take his son, Elizabeth Harrington said.

“I am so glad they had a family young,” she said of her brother and sister-in-law. “I really am. If something had ever happened to him and he hadn’t had kids, it would have been so much worse. I just look at it as I have two pieces of my brother and I have my sister-in-law, who’s basically my only sibling now, and I’m just going to be there for her in any way I can and for those kids. They’re the biggest part of my life.”

Harrington’s mother spoke yesterday about the war in Iraq and the controversy surrounding it, and she said she didn’t want her son’s death — during his second tour of duty there — to have been in vain.

“I want them to get democracy and freedom over there, because that’s why my son was there,” Kathleen Harrington said.

His father, Dennis Harrington, lives in Cranston. In a brief phone conversation yesterday, he said he wasn’t up to talking about the loss.

As the family is just beginning to deal with the many funeral and other arrangements they’ll need to make –– including a move back East for Kyle’s wife and children, so they can be closer to her family and Kyle’s –– they have another loss to face.

The family of one of Kyle Harrington’s best friends, who is serving in Iraq, lives about five hours from the Harringtons’ home in Fort Lewis, Wash. Relatives here know that friend only by his first name, Gwen.

On Saturday night, Gwen’s wife, Michelle, set out by car with one of the couple’s three children, heading to Faith Harrington’s home to console her. But she never arrived. A collision took the life of her young son, Vincent. Michelle survived.

Editor’s Note: This story corrects the Army unit Harrington was serving in at the time of his death.

––With reports from Journal staff writer Donita Naylor

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