Local News

Bragg widow: 'No such thing as friendly fire'

Posted June 11, 2014

— News this week that five American troops had been killed in a U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan frustrates a Cumberland County woman whose husband died 12 years ago in another friendly fire incident.

Sheila Harriman-Reid said Wednesday that the military needs to do more to protect U.S. troops.

Fort Bragg soldier Justin Helton, 25, was among the five killed Monday when an airstrike was called in after a U.S. unit was ambushed by the Taliban in southern Afghanistan. Military officials are investigating the incident.

"There's absolutely no such thing as friendly fire," Harriman-Reid said. "There's nothing friendly about getting bombed. There's nothing friendly about getting shot at or being shot."

When Chief Warrant Officer 2 Stanley Harriman died in Afghanistan in March 2002, the Army initially told Harriman-Reid that her husband had been killed in an enemy attack. Officials later changed the story, saying that U.S. aircraft providing cover for ground troops at night mistook his convoy for al-Qaeda and attacked.

"It made me angry that that had happened," she said. "Then it turned into more frustration because it's like, let's fix this problem."

Harriman-Reid said there's no excuse for friendly fire deaths. There must be better systems of identification and protocols, she said.

"I understand that, through war, there is a lot of confusion when things get hectic and we are human, and because we are human, we make human error," she said. "I think the technology is there and it's advanced enough so that a lot of this can be avoided."

Her face clenches when asked if the passage of time makes her husband's death any easier to handle.

The couple's 18-year-old daughter graduated from high school Wednesday, and their son, who is about to turn 16, plans to follow his father into the Army after he attends college.

"We will always keep Stan alive for our family in whatever we do," Harriman-Reid said, adding that, regardless of how he died, "It will never change the fact that he's still an American hero."


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  • Icaretoo Jun 12, 2014

    During combat there are only two types of fire -- enemy fire or friendly fire. I don't think the term "friendly" was ever intended to mean kind. How else would you delineate between the two?

  • Classified Jun 12, 2014

    View quoted thread

    In WWII most of those who signed up did so AFTER a direct attack upon our nation so your comment is rather disingenuous. Please spare us the faux patriotism.

  • Brian Jenkins Jun 12, 2014

    View quoted thread

    As a 14 year Air Force vet they were not there "protecting our country". Please turn off your TV.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Jun 12, 2014

    "Join the military"*

    *War, training for war and even war exercises are very dangerous. You may be killed at any time by anyone or anything.

    (Do you think they should add this disclaimer to enlistment propaganda?...since it's completely true and even somewhat likely?)

  • LovemyPirates Jun 12, 2014

    LOPO - While many did volunteer, including my father and father-in-law (who landed on D-day), there was also a draft.

  • Deb Rodgers Jun 12, 2014
    user avatar

    I appreciate her husband's service to our country. I'm sure in a combat zone that directives can become confused. As another soldier said " I signed on the dotted line". They were there doing what they wanted to do, protect our country. They know the risks of war, whether it be from enemy forces, or "friendly" fire. They choose their mission, don't undermine their choice.

  • LovemyPirates Jun 12, 2014

    Sadly, these deaths occur in every conflict. There is no way to 100% guarantee these deaths will not occur. Very sad and difficult to deal with as the surviving family.

  • lopo Jun 12, 2014

    During WW2 majority of the country including hollywood volunteered for military service. The U.S was fighting 2 fronts and only 1 % served. For all those out there who never served and make comments, what do you see when you look in the mirror?

  • btneast Jun 12, 2014

    Sure the technology is there....assuming everyone is using it correctly. When you perceive that someone is shooting at you, you don't have time to think, much less consult a screen . It's absolute chaos in many situations like this.

  • Cheree Teasley Jun 12, 2014
    user avatar

    Unless this was an "on purpose" it doesn't do any good to demand what we call "accountability." Mistakes were made, horrible mistakes. But every single one of these men and women out there in a war zone have a heavy job to do. How can we sit here at home and demand criminal charges, or punishments that drain their resources and support? If it wasn't an "on purpose" then it was a mistake. A tragic one, but still a mistake. We will never eliminate these kinds of mistakes from war. Ever.