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Jason Harpster
Private First Class, United States Army
 Maryland State Flag
Family, Friends Remember Md. Soldier
4 January 2010
By CLAUDIA COFFEY
Courtesy of MyFox D.C.

DAMASCUS, Maryland - A Maryland soldier was remembered on Monday after dying mysteriously Christmas Day. Private First Class Jason Harpster was on a four-day holiday leave with family at his Damascus, Maryland home when he never awoke on Christmas morning.

A memorial service was held today for the 19-year Army soldier. Private First Class Jason Harpster may have died young, but this 19 year old lived a full and vibrant life, as told by the hundreds that showed up at Mollsworth Funeral Home in Damascus.

"He was just our Jason. He was always happy," says his grandmother Theresa Harpster.

While there were plenty of tears shed, there were also many stories told, especially about Jason's fearless nature and love of the outdoors. They were moments that his family says Jason himself would have enjoyed.

"Jason would have been smiling," says his father Keith Harpster.

PFC Harpster returned home in Damascus from his base in Texas on Christmas Eve. He complained of flu-like symptoms and was taking over the counter medications. But the family never expected him to die on Christmas morning. Tests are still underway to determine the exact cause of death.

His mysterious death makes this loss so much more difficult to understand.

"You never think you are going to outlive your children. You always think you'll grow old and they will take care of you. You just don't imagine that's going to happen," says his mother Kim Harpster.

Then there was the brief international struggle to get his pregnant fiancé, who lives in the Philippines, a temporary visa to attend the funeral. At first the request was denied, but then a last-minute approval was granted thanks to the help of Representative Chris Van Hollen's office.

"It was difficult when there was the denial with the Department of State, but we worked the Department of Homeland Security so we could get her here and we are very happy we had this outcome for the family because they are obviously going through a very difficult time," says Rep. Van Hollen spokesperson Mike Parsons.

Harpster's fiancé is due in May and was surrounded at Monday's service by friends and Harpster's family. Keith Harpster, Jason's father, says it's been especially difficult on her.

"It's rough. She had not seen Jason in over a month. And she comes in now. Well, there are no words for it," says Harpster.

Private First Class Jason Harpster's burial will be at Arlington National Cemetery on Friday. The final toxicology results and official cause of death is expected within a month.
 
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Posted: 5 January 2009