Family remembers Matthew Harmonby Tom Weber, Minnesota Public Radio,
Madeleine Baran, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Collin Gravalin was in Matt Harmon's class at Fosston High. They both ran track together - Gravalin was a sprinter, Harmon was a distance runner.
"He could run forever, that's for sure."
Gravalin lost touch with Harmon after high school. For the past six years, Harmon had lived in Germany on U.S. military bases with his wife, Nicole, and three children.
Harmon, a Minnesota native and sergeant in the U.S. Army, was killed in Afghanistan on Aug. 14, 2011, while hauling a military vehicle damaged by an I.E.D. in Paktika province near the Pakistani border. He was killed by an explosion while recovering a vehicle. The Department of Defense confirmed Harmon's death on Tuesday.
Also killed in the explosion was 32-year-old Army Spec. Joseph A. VanDreumel, of Grand Rapids, Mich.
They were members of the 1st Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 172nd Infantry Brigade based in Germany.
Harmon, 29, a 2000 graduate of Fosston High School in northern Minnesota, was on his third deployment to the region. He signed up for the military right out of high school.
The Grand Forks Herald reports Harmon's wife Nicole is originally from that area. The two met at the University of North Dakota before Harmon decided to enlist in the military full-time in 2004. Two of their children were born in Germany.
After all these years, Gravalin remembers this detail about his former teammate.
"He was always a positive guy; always in a good mood. And as far as track goes, he worked as hard as anyone on the team. So, he definitely put forth the effort."
Tom Harmon suspects that same work ethic is what made his son such a dedicated soldier. He had no spoken to his son since July before his deployment to Afghanistan.
"We realize he's gone and we realize that nobody forced him to do what he was doing. So we don't hold any ill-will," Harmon said. "We're mostly concerned with the children. Now they've lost their father, and it's going to be tough with them."
Tom Harmon said it is likely that his daughter-in-law and three grandchildren, ages 8, 5 and 3 will now move back to the area.
--- Associated Press contributed this report.
Tom Weber serves as co-host for MPR News' The Daily Circuit.