A Navy SEAL from Lexington has died in combat in Afghanistan, the military said Monday.
Petty Officer 1st Class Joshua Thomas Harris, 36, a SEAL special warfare operator, drowned when he was swept away while crossing a turbulent river during combat operations Saturday, the Navy said.
“My son, who perished in Afghanistan, believed more than anything in the world that he was fighting for our freedom,” said his mother, Evelyn Harris, by telephone.
Harris went to Lexington High School, where he was an all-conference football player. He graduated from Davidson College with a degree in studio art.
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“His art is unlike any art I've ever seen before,” his mother said. His subjects in charcoal and oils “were difficult to recognize for what they were until you could take time to really study them.”
Evelyn Harris said her son gave up his art career to fulfill a longtime dream of joining the elite military unit.
“He wanted to be a SEAL more than anything in the world,” she said.
Harris joined the Navy on Aug. 23, 2000, completed SEAL training and joined SEAL Team Ten at the Naval Amphibious Base in Little Creek, Va.
At the time of his death, he was temporarily deployed from his assignment at Naval Special Warfare Development Group in Virginia Beach, the military said. He had also served in Iraq, and his numerous decorations include the Bronze Star.
“He will always be remembered as a warrior, a leader and a patriot,” said Rear Adm. Garry Bonelli, commander of Naval Special Warfare Command.
Harris is survived by his father, Sam Harris, mother Evelyn, twin sister, Kiki Harris, and brother, S. Ranchor Harris III.
“He will be missed by everybody he was ever able to come into contact with,” said Evelyn Harris. “He just had that graciousness about him.
“It's so ... it's one in a million.”