MORGANTOWN — “This is about honoring a man who gave his life for this country. I think it’s a small token to trade for a man’s life, to have a bridge named after him.”
So said Steve Harper about a legislative effort to honor his son, who was killed near Kandahar, Afghanistan in 2011.
A Senate resolution adopted Feb. 14 aims to rename the Green Bag Road bridge crossing Deckers Creek by Classics 3 to U.S. Army PFC Andrew “Bo” Martin Harper Memorial Bridge in memory of the University High graduate and Army soldier.
Lead sponsor Sen. Bob Beach, D-Monongalia, said the request to name the bridge came from Harper’s family.
The resolution notes Andrew Harper was born in Charleston, S.C., in 1991, the son of Steven M. Harper, of Maidsville, and Deanna Jeannette Anderson Harper Wells, of Middleburg, Fla.
He was a 2009 graduate of University High School, where he participated in football, wrestling, and track. He was a member of Young Life of Morgantown and attended Chestnut Ridge Church.
He enlisted in the Army and obtained the rank of private first class.
Assigned to Iron Troop, 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Calvary Regiment, Vilseck, Germany, on March 11, 2011, he was killed near Kandahar, Afghanistan. The Dominion Post archives indicate he died from injuries sustained during a vehicle accident at Kandahar Airfield.
An annual memorial motorcycle ride benefits an endowment fund established at Your Community Foundation by Harper. The fund was established to provide an annual scholarship to a student in Monongalia or Harrison counties.
The non-profit Bikers Bros & Bo puts on the ride every year. This year it will fall on Andrew’s birthday, Aug. 17.
Funds raised by the organization have gone to a number of efforts, including sponsoring military families during the holidays and sponsoring veterans for the West Virginia Veterans Nursing Home, in Clarksburg.
The non-profit also supports Fisher House and Wreaths Across America.
According to his father, helping folks came natural to Andrew.
“That was one thing, he was a champion of the little guy,” Harper said. “He never wanted to see anybody getting picked on, and if he did, you can bet was going to step in.”
Asked what he remembers most about his son, Harper recalled Andrew’s smile, and his famous hugs.
“He always had a big ‘ol hug for you. It didn’t matter where you were or what you were doing — and you had to hug him or he wasn’t going away,” Harper said, laughing. “And he was a big guy, 6’3” and 240 lbs, so he was going to hug you whether you liked it or not.”
SCR 25 is a concurrent resolution that also requires adoption by the House. If approved there, Beach said he expects the bridge naming ceremony would take place in August.
Harper said he struggles to come up with words to describe how he would feel if the bridge is named for Andrew.
“That being said, it makes me prouder than hell. Honored,” he said. “On the other hand, you can’t imagine how much I wish he was still here and none of this was necessary.
Reporter Ben Conley contributed to this story.