NEWS

UPDATED: Greencastle son, soldier Ben Bitner, killed in Afghanistan

PAT FRIDGEN

The Greencastle community has begun mourning the death of one of its own. News filtered through town Saturday and Sunday that Benjamin Bitner, 37, died in Afghanistan on April 23. He was an 18-year career soldier in the U.S. Army and was serving his sixth tour of duty in an area of conflict. The latest assignment supported Operation Enduring Freedom.

The Department of Defense announced late Monday afternoon that Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin F. Bitner, 37, of Greencastle died April 23 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The DOD said Bitner died of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using an improvised explosive device.  He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, Fort Bragg, N.C.

Bitner lived in Jackson Springs, North Carolina, with his wife, April, and sons Gunnar and Rogue. He is the son of Roger and Bev Bitner of Greencastle and was a 1991 graduate of Greencastle-Antrim High School.

Superintendent C. Gregory Hoover knew Bitner since he was a child. Hoover served as assistant principal in the middle school when Bitner was a student.

“He was a pistol,” Hoover recalled, “and everyone would agree. He’d tell you that himself. He was a good kid, one that always spoke to you.

“It’s just tragic. Our deepest sympathy to the family. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Bev and Roger, and to Ben’s wife and children.”

The Rescue Hose Company paid tribute to Bitner on a sign at the station. He was still a member, his name on the roster for approximately 20 years.

“With great sadness, the Rescue Hose Company sends condolences to the Bitner family,” said administrator Brian Barkdoll.

Congregations in area churches offered prayers during services Easter Sunday.

Duane Schroyer, Greencastle VFW Post 6319 commander and a member of Greencastle American Legion Post 373, expressed sorrow at the news.

"It's sad to lose any soldier, especially one from your hometown. His name will be the first on the Greencastle-Antrim Veterans Memorial for dying in the war against terrorism."

He added that the VFW and Legion wanted to help in any way possible with a memorial service.

No information on funeral arrangements has yet been announced.

Ben Bitner shown in his senior portrait from the 1991 Greencastle-Antrim High School yearbook. Bitner participated in cross country and wrestling in high school.