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Wednesday, August 13, 2014 - 11:27pm
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — He was brilliant, "always two steps ahead of the rest of us."
He was tenacious, "a warrior poet who never, ever gave up."
He was beloved, "a husband, a father, a son and one of the greatest Soldiers this Army has ever produced."
But most of all, Maj. Gen. Harold J. "Harry" Greene was "a true American hero" -- not because of the way he died, but the way he lived.
"Life was his fuel, and he energized us all," said Retired Col. David Moore, during a eulogy for his former colleague. "We all have our stories. Any one of us could be standing here, telling a unique story about how Harry helped us laugh, helped us grow, and made us better people."
Those stories, punctuated by laughter and tears, were shared in honor of Greene's memory during a ceremony at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Monday, six days after Greene was mortally wounded in a shooting at Marshal Fahim National Defense University in Afghanistan. Greene, 55, was the first U.S. general officer killed in combat since the Vietnam War.
Greene's wife, their two children and other family members were in attendance, joined by a capacity crowd of more than 1,000 mourners at the Post Theater. The speakers -- senior officials from the Army Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, known as C4ISR, community in which Greene was a key leader -- offered condolences and thanks to Greene's family, while painting a vivid picture of his confidence, compassion and camaraderie.
"Harry was truly one of a kind," said Gary Martin, deputy to the Commanding General, Communications-Electronics Command, whose voice broke as he described first meeting Greene at Fort Monmouth, N.J.
"Harry was more than just a bright guy -- he was also an extremely effective leader and officer," Martin said. "He made it easy for people to like and want to work for him."
A technical whiz with a gregarious personality, Greene was equally at home in a conference room full of engineers, at a system test site with Soldiers or on the sidelines of a kids' baseball game. His enthusiasm for tackling complex problems on behalf of Soldiers, regardless of the technical or process challenges involved, spilled over to the C4ISR workforce, who reciprocated with fierce loyalty to him and their shared mission.
"He inspired so many to do so much -- even those of us who at times were not the easiest to lead," said John Willison, director of Command, Power & Integration, Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center. "He was brilliant, while not arrogant. He could digest the most complex problems while speaking the simple truths."
With Greene's sharp focus came a playful twinkle in his eye. When he was splitting his time between Aberdeen Proving Ground's Research, Development and Engineering Command, known as RDECOM, and Natick Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass., from 2009 to 2011, the RDECOM staff poked fun at him by creating several full-size cardboard replicas of the officer, which would surface regularly at staff meetings, in hallways and behind desks. On a tour of a factory while serving as Program Executive Officer, or PEO, for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors, the Boston-born and Red Sox diehard Greene stopped to tease a technician wearing a New York Yankees cap -- "and even turned it inside out," said Stephen Kreider, the current PEO.
More recently, during his final assignment as the Deputy Commanding General Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, Greene woke up at 3 a.m. to attend, via Skype, a ceremony recognizing the career contributions of a longtime colleague here.
"He wanted to do this so he could personally recognize the individual and to thank him for his years of service to the Army," Martin said. "That's how Harry was, and what he meant to people."
The eulogies were followed by a scripture reading, firing of rounds and the playing of Taps in Greene's honor. Mourners then solemnly filed past Greene's Fallen Comrade Display, leaving mementos, touching the combat boots or simply saluting in silence.
Greene, who served in the Army for 34 years and held five advanced degrees, will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, tomorrow, following a memorial service at the Fort Myer Memorial Chapel on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Arlington, Virgina.
In lieu of flowers, his family asks that donations be made to a favorite scouting, youth sports or education program. Donations also can be made to Fisher House, USO, Wounded Warrior Project, or the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, in memory of Major General Harold J. Greene.
"Major General Greene is a true American hero who was responsible for the safe return of many from war, due to his dedication to mission and his commitment to excellence," Kreider said. "His legacy is the character, integrity and passion for life he displayed in everything he did."