Somber homecoming for Toms River soldier

June 22, 2011 3:46:41 PM PDT
This is not the way they planned to welcome him home.

Out of sight of cameras, but present to witness the solemn ceremony, the family of Army Sergeant James Harvey was there at Dover Air Force Base as his body was returned to the states.

The 23-year-old Toms River resident, known as Jimmy, was killed Monday in Afghanistan's Ghanzi province after insurgents attacked his unit with small-arms fire.

"It's a true loss for everyone. You know, he was the baby boy in the family and you never expect that to happen, so everyone's just in shock," brother-in-law Dave Raffaele said.

After enlisting in 2009, Sgt. Harvey was deployed to Afghanistan in January.

His family says Harvey was deeply affected by the death of several comrades, and that his Facebook messages lately hinted of concerns about the situation in Afghanistan.

On June 12th he wrote: "Chaos and madness before noon seems to be the norm around here."

"If you knew him you could tell that he was a little concerned, but he never really wanted to show it because he didn't want people to really worry about him," childhood friend Charlie Mezaros said.

Sgt. Harvey, who has three sisters, was raised in North Jersey and moved to Toms River when his parents retired.

He was home on leave just last month when he visited a school where his sister Robin works to personally thank students for letters they wrote to his unit.

Today, a yellow ribbon hangs on the lamppost at the Harvey home.

Along the lagoon behind the house, neighbors have lowered their flags to half mast in honor of the fallen soldier.

In his room, a uniform just out of the cleaners sits on Jimmy Harvey's bed, along with his picture and his dress shoes.

Those closest are remembering a young man who was serious about his military service, but had a lighter side.

"He was a prankster; he liked to have a good time. He was outgoing, very friendly," Mezaros said.

Funeral arrangements are still being finalized. Sgt. Harvey's family has been told that the Army will posthumously award him both the Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.