PFC Eric Hario
Army Pfc. Eric Hario, 19, of Monroe died Friday in Afghanistan, the U.S. Department of Defense announced Sunday.
Pfc. Hario, an Army Ranger, had been in the central Asian country for only three weeks, his brother, Mark Hario, said Sunday. The family had spoken to the soldier the day before he was killed.
The Department of Defense did not release details of how Pfc. Hario died. His remains were to be flown to the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Sunday night. A funeral is tentatively scheduled for Monday.
A 2008 graduate of Monroe High School, Pfc. Hario was on the school’s football and wrestling teams.
Carter Lanning was Pfc. Hario’s best friend for most of their lives, perhaps a predestined camaraderie with their birthdays 24 hours apart, Dec. 9 for Pfc. Hario and Dec. 10 for the 19-year-old Saginaw Valley State student.
“We’d … spend a lot of time at his house and out and about,” he recalled Sunday. “He was just always a happy, a really bubbly person.”
By enlisting after high school, Pfc. Hario was following tradition. His father was in the Navy and his oldest brother, Robert Hario, is in the Army. Mark Hario said Pfc. Hario planned to stay in the service “for some time.”
“He just wanted to be a Special Forces guy,” Mark Hario said. Lanning said Pfc. Hario ultimately dreamed of being an FBI agent or a police officer, but “he’s wanted to go be in the military ever since … sixth grade.”
In addition to his brothers, Pfc. Hario is survived by his parents, James and Rebecca Hario, and his grandparents, Mary Fauerbach and John and Colleen Hario.
Click here to read the article in the Monoroe News.
The words “hero” and “Hario” were used interchangeably Monday as Monroe County laid to rest Pfc. Eric W. Hario, a 19-year-old Army Ranger from Monroe who died in a fierce battle in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan late last month.
Pfc. Hario was buried with full military honors at Roselawn Memorial Park in a ceremony that drew hundreds.
“He did not fight in vain. He did not die in vain,” said Chaplain Dave Bowles of the 75th Ranger Regiment. He described Pfc. Hario as a soldier who fought for his flag and country and who set a fine example for everyone.
The chaplain said Eric, the son of James and Rebecca Hario of Monroe, was the first member of the 75th Ranger Regiment from Michigan to die in the Afghan war. He was shot in the neck in the early stages of a fierce 20-hour firefight in a mountainous area of eastern Afghanistan, Army officials said.
Chaplain Bowles said Pfc. Hario “gave 100 percent and then some as he served with America’s most elite infantry unit, the Army Rangers.”
As the procession of about 100 vehicles traveled down S. Dixie Hwy. to the cemetery, people lined the street along the route, holding hands over their hearts, saluting, doffing their hats, holding signs or waving flags.
A bagpiper and the traditional 21-gun salute were part of the graveside ceremony at the LaSalle cemetery as somber-faced soldiers folded the flag that draped Pfc. Hario’s silver casket and presented it to his mother. Pfc. Hario’s older brother, Robert, an Army specialist, stood and saluted as “Taps” was bugled.
Throngs of mourners surrounded the gravesite near the boughs of a spreading shade tree at the cemetery as an overcast sky periodically shed tear-sized drops of rain.
Earlier, during a funeral Mass at St. Mary Catholic Church in Monroe, Pfc. Hario was described as a hero who always dreamed of becoming a soldier.
“Pfc. Eric Hario is one of our nation’s heroes,” Col. Michael (Erik) Kurilla, 75th Regiment commander, told those attending the funeral. “He died fighting our nation’s enemies in the mountains of Afghanistan.”
He died while fighting an enemy that is “ideologically opposed to everything we stand for,” Col. Kurilla said. “Let us thank God that such men as Eric have lived.”
The Rev. Marc Gawronski of St. Mary said that Pfc. Hario was living his lifelong dream. “Eric had a dream to become a soldier. From the age of 5, that’s what he wanted to do. He never lost sight of that dream. He made that dream come true and he did everything he could to pursue that dream.
“He died living that dream and protecting his country. Eric has become our hero and for that we will always be grateful.”
He said the young soldier was an inspiration to all who pursue their dreams.
“He showed us what it takes to live one’s dream,” he said. “Even though that dream challenged his mind, body and spirit, he stayed true to that dream.”
The Rev. Gawronski also drew a comparison between Pfc. Hario’s love of country to God’s love – “the love that lays down its life for us all.”
During the funeral, the Rev. Gawronski read a letter written by Mrs. Hario, who tearfully sat nearby.
Described as a last letter to her dead son, she recalled how his love of sports — he was in varsity wrestling and football in high school — helped prepare him to be a Ranger. He was strong and would move furniture in the house when needed, cart in groceries, and she remembered when he lifted her on his shoulder and carried her around.
“You were a wonderful young man. Everyone who knew you loved you,” she wrote.
When he became part of the elite Rangers, she thought, “My goodness, at 19 my son has met his life’s goal.”
She also recalled the dread when Army officers came to her door early on the morning of Aug. 29 to inform her of her son’s death.
“It was like time had stopped,” she wrote. “It quickly turned into the worst day of our life.”
In the letter, Mrs. Hario also described how she spoke with Eric on the phone the night before he went into the fateful battle.
He had told her “no matter what happens, I love you all very much and, Mom, you are always in my heart.”
She also had a message for parents attending the funeral: “No matter what age your children are, make sure you hug them tight and tell them you love them each day because, as we know from our experience here, we never know when their last day will be.”
Hundreds of mourners paid their respects to the soldier during two days of visitation at Rupp Funeral Home. Among them was U.S. Rep. John D. Dingell, D-Dearborn, who visited Saturday and said he was deeply saddened by the young man’s death. The funeral home was surrounded by 50 large American flags posted by a contingent of motorcyclists from the Patriot Guard Riders. The group attends funerals around the region, and its members held the large flags outside the church during the funeral.
Pfc. Hario’s friends, classmates and teachers, as well as the Monroe High School football team dressed in their red-and-white jerseys, attended the funeral. Expressions of sorrow and sympathy abounded.
Monroe High students painted the school’s “Spirit Rock” near the school’s parking lot entrance in a camouflage design that said “R.I.P. Eric Hario.” Spray-painted on the parking lot was “We miss you, Eric Hario.”
Vehicles in the funeral procession were adorned with sayings, including one that said, “A brave soldier and loyal friend. We will miss you.”