President Bush words honor Navy SEAL, Nathan Hardy KIA

Union Leader Correspondent

Nathan Hardy, the Navy SEAL who died while trying to shut down an al-Qaida suicide bomber cell in Iraq, was remembered by President George Bush in his Memorial Day address to the nation yesterday.

“I am humbled by those who have made the ultimate sacrifice that allow a free civilization to endure and flourish,” Bush said at Arlington National Cemetery. “It only remains for us, the heirs of their legacy, to have the courage and the character to follow their lead and to preserve America as the greatest nation on Earth and the last, best hope for mankind.” HARDY

Bush eulogized all U.S. troops who died serving their country, but particularly those who lost their lives this past year.

Hardy, 29, of Durham, was on his fourth tour of duty in Iraq when he was killed on Feb. 4 during a firefight. He left behind a wife, Mindi; a son, Parker, who will turn 2 next month; his parents, Stephen, a professor at the University of New Hampshire, and Donna, an administrative assistant in UNH’s psychology department; and a brother, Benjamin, 30. Hardy’s oldest brother, Josh, died of brain cancer in 1993.

Hardy was killed while trying to drag his friend and fellow SEAL, Chief Petty Officer Mike Koch of State College, Pa., to safety. Both men died.

Bush mentioned the two soldiers often headed into battle wearing American flags on their chests under their uniforms.

Stephen Hardy, Nathan’s father, said his son and Koch had been part of the same unit for about a year.

“The President captured the relationship between Mike and Nate,” Stephen Hardy said. “They were just two similar guys and they loved each other; they worked out together and trained together.”

The two are buried side by side at Arlington National Cemetery.

Nathan Hardy’s father said his son wanted to be a Navy SEAL since he was in sixth grade and his determination never flagged. He enlisted in the Navy after graduating from high school in 1997. He previously served in the Persian Gulf and Kosovo.

“There are lucky people who find their calling early in life,” Stephen Hardy said. “My son was looking forward to as long a career in the Navy SEALs as he could have.”

Hardy’s maternal grandfather, Charles Bucky Harris, served with John F. Kennedy on the PT-109 during World War II. Kennedy saved Harris’ life and that of numerous other men when a Japanese destroyer sank their boat in August 1943. Hardy’s paternal grandfather served in the U.S. Marines and fought at the battle of Iwo Jima.

Hardy said Mindi was recently asked if the President could mention Nathan in a speech, and she gave permission, although she was told the President had several other options. Yesterday morning, Mindi received another phone call, this one urging her to watch the President’s televised speech.

“We certainly are proud of Nate,” Stephen Hardy said. “We’re proud of all the men and women of all ages who serve their country, particularly those who have lost their lives.”