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Hellos, goodbyes for 2 GIs

The war in Iraq came home to Pasco on Thursday.

Riflemen fired a 21-gun salute for Army Pfc. Adam Harris as he was laid to rest at Trinity Memorial Gardens in New Port Richey, a week after being cut down by a sniper.

He had just turned 21 and was planning to get married after his tour ended later this month.

"Adam put his future on the line and ultimately lost it," said his mother, Denise Bush, clutching to her chest the flag that covered his casket. "He did it for all our freedoms. People need to appreciate that."

Ten miles away in Holiday, Staff Sgt. Michael Erlandson appreciated his first full day at home after 378 days of helping protect convoys from almost daily insurgent attacks. A roadside bomb temporarily blinded him and has left a constant ringing in his right ear.

"I'm proud of what we did over there. It needed to be done," said Erlandson, a 1993 Gulf High graduate. "I don't want to see another American lost, but it's our job and our duty. Sometimes you have to go in harm's way for the States."

When a reporter told him of the burial at Trinity Memorial Gardens, Erlandson looked blankly toward the floor.

"Oh no," he said.

Pfc. Harris was born in Dunedin and spent the first eight years of his life in Clearwater before his family moved away. He was a typical teenager: into cars, sports and hard rock bands, such as Korn and Judas Priest. He enlisted in the Army because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and to show his parents he could become something, said his father, Air Force Sgt. Steve Bush. "He was starting to drift a bit."

Adam Harris left for Iraq in November with the 2nd Infantry Division, in Fort Lewis, Wash., and was assigned to the Stryker brigade. While on leave in July, he visited his parents in Abilene, Texas, and the worry showed.

"Dad, I'm scared," Bush recalled Adam saying. "He was telling me he didn't know who the enemy was, that he didn't know who was good or bad. I told him, "That's what's going to keep you on your toes. Once you stop being scared, that's when you have to start worrying.' "

On Sept. 21, Adam sent an e-mail home expressing more uneasiness. "He said a lot of stuff was going down," Bush recounted during a postfuneral gathering at the VFW post in Holiday.

Adam was killed by a sniper the following day. His body was brought to New Port Richey to be buried next to his grandmother and great grandparents. With about 30 family members and fellow soldiers looking on, an honor guard from Fort Stewart, Ga., carried out the ceremony, sounding the 21-gun salute and meticulously folding the flag draped over the casket. A soldier stood in the distance and played taps.

Another soldier took the folded flag, walked over and knelt before Adam's mother. His brother, 9-year-old Brandon, began to cry then offered a salute. A tear ran down Army Staff Sgt. William Bush's face. He is Adam's cousin. "I wish he could have come home," Bush said. "He was almost home." Bush's wife, Iris, is scheduled to deploy next month to Iraq with her unit from Fort Hood, Texas.