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Friends share memories of fallen soldier

By: Penne Usher Journal Correspondent
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The Auburn-area community continues to express condolences and share memories of fallen soldier, Sgt. Joshua Hardt. Army Sgt. Hardt, 24, formerly of Applegate, was killed Oct. 3 while serving in Afghanistan. According to family members, Hardt joined the military to bring honor to himself and his family. He believed that a military career was the best way possible to provide for his wife and make a contribution to his country, said his mother Shelley Bell in a previous interview. Hundreds of insurgents armed with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades stormed a pair of remote outposts near the Pakistan border, killing eight U.S. soldiers, including Hardt, and capturing more than 20 Afghan security troops in the deadliest assault against U.S. forces in more than a year, military officials have said. The family is in the process of making funeral arrangements and will make that information public once finalized. “The family is grateful for the sympathy that has been extended and appreciates the community’s kindness in respecting their privacy during this difficult time,” Karen Fraser-Middleton, the family’s spokeswoman said in a prepared statement. “Updates will be provided as soon as they become available.” Military officials were unable to confirm Friday whether or not Hardt’s remains have left Dover, Del., bound for California. Calls to the Hardt family were not returned by press time. Since the story of Hardt’s death was first reported in the Journal, friends of Hardt have sent photos and e-mailed their thoughts about the friend they lost all too soon. “Among many things, Josh liked sports and fishing but what he enjoyed most was being with his people. If you were friends with Josh, you weren’t just a friend — you were his brother because that’s how Josh rolled. Watching the kids grow up and seeing the circles of friendship develop, Josh was one of the ‘go to’ friends for all. He was a charismatic young man with a great sense of humor. It’s no accident that Josh’s last name was Hardt, he had a huge heart. We are deeply saddened about the loss of Josh Hardt. He will be sorely missed by many,” wrote Don Leal on behalf of the Leal family. Auburn Mayor Mike Holmes has requested the Hardt family’s permission to add the Placer grad’s name to the Auburn Area War Memorial located at the New Auburn Cemetery. “I am deeply saddened by the death of Sgt. Hardt who was a credit to the Army and the people of the greater Auburn area. His dedication to serving his country upholds a tradition of longstanding in this community,” Holmes said Friday. Dee Rein, of Operation Mom, sent a message of condolence that has been passed on to the family. Hardt’s friend Shaun Roberts e-mailed several photographs and wrote that Josh was “the toughest young man I knew. He had a smile on his face all the time and he was just so funny.” Family friend Julie Clark said how proud she was of the youngest Hardt boy. “Josh really loved what he was doing for his country,” Clark said. “And it is because of this that we may find some joy in this time of immense sorrow.” Hardt, who spent his senior year at Placer High, played on the Hillmen football varsity team. “He had a great year here,” said Peter Efstathiu, school principal. “He was all-league in football and was a great all-around kid at school.” The school may honor Hardt at its next home game. “It’s been talked about to have a moment of silence, but we haven’t finalized anything yet,” Efstathiu said Friday. Also killed in the Oct. 3 attack were Staff Sgt. Vernon W. Martin, 25, of Savannah, Ga.; Sgt. Justin T. Gallegos, 27, of Tucson, Ariz.; Sgt. Joshua J. Kirk, 30, of South Portland, Maine; Sgt. Michael P. Scusa, 22, of Villas, N.J.; Spc. Christopher T. Griffin, 24, of Kincheloe, Mich.; Spc. Stephan L. Mace, 21, of Lovettsville, Va.; and Pfc. Kevin C. Thomson, 22, of Reno. Penne Usher can be reached at penne.usher ---------- Joshua Hardt background: - Hardt was stationed in Fort Carson, Colorado Springs, Colo, with the 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, 3rd Squadron. He was living in Colorado Springs with his wife, Olivia Guevara Hardt. - He joined the Army in 2006 with basic training at Fort Knox. - Hardt served his first deployment in Iraq with his brother, John Hardt. While serving in the Northeastern province of Afghanistan, Joshua Hardt was promoted to the rank of sergeant. - He is survived by his brother, Jonathon Michael Hardt, who is also serving in the U.S. Army, and Jeffrey Mathew Hardt of Auburn. He was the grandson of Herbert and Patricia Hardt, Sharon Heisey and John (Jake) Loughlin.