Idaho National Guard mourning loss of guardsmen

The chaplain for the Idaho National Guard says many are grieving the loss of two guardsmen killed in a cabin fire near Donnelly last weekend.

BOISE - A devastating loss for two families and the Idaho National Guard after a deadly cabin fire near Tamarack resort Friday night.

Many are still grieving after two guardsmen and two children died in that fire.

"When you lose a battle buddy you're losing a part of yourself," Robert Morris, the fulltime support chaplain for the Idaho National Guard said.

Morris said it’s important to provide support to the families and service members.

"To the surviving family members of the victims, is that we love you. We are here for you 24-7. We will not forget and you are forever in our family," he said.

The Valley County coroner identified the victims as Lt. Col. Jim Harper III and his 14-year-old son James "JJ" Harper, and First Sgt. Erin Smith and her young daughter Autumn.

"Just because this tragedy has happened doesn't separate or end our relationship with you and we are committed to be with you all the way as far as you need us to be," Morris said.

RELATED: Investigation into deadly cabin fire focusing on propane fireplace

The chaplain said his job is to help service members grieve so they don’t lose their humanity while being able to help them maintain mission readiness.   

"We are here to talk to listen to provide comfort. Whatever you need to process this so we can move forward as a unit and as an organization,” he said. “And continue to do the great things that we do because they would want us to continue to do the great things that we do which are protecting our country and serving our great state and the people of our communities."

Also on Wednesday, Maj. General Gary Saylor, adjutant general of the Idaho National Guard, released a statement extending his sympathies to the loved ones of the victims.

"As we work to fill the emptiness left by these four precious members of our community, our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones," the statement reads, in part. "The Idaho National Guard family is here for all those touched by this loss.  Our hearts are with them."

The guard is hosting a memorial at 9 a.m. Sunday at Gowen Field's Memorial Park. Family, friends and all Idaho military division personnel past and present are invited to attend. 

© 2017 KTVB-TV


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