40, of Austin, Texas; assigned to Headquarters, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Fort Bragg, N.C.; killed June 17 while conducting combat operations in Qaim, Iraq. Robert was born in Limestone, Maine.
To honor MSG Robert M. Horrigan, his mother, Mary Alice Horrigan retrieved this stone from a stone wall near a 90 year-old apple tree in an apple orchard in Belfast, Maine. The apple tree was planted by Mary Alice’s grandparents in 1921, and Mary Alice climbed this same tree as a girl and recently made the best apple pie from its fruit.
Robert’s mother. Ms. Mary Horrigan writes about her son, his character and service. She describes the stone she selected and how she learned about The Summit Project —
“I saw the stones in Portland at the Armory at the Maine Marathon, and hoped I was not too late. I picked a stone from the orchard that my grandpa planted, and in which my kids used to climb the apple trees, when we lived on a farm in Belfast. Bob was born in the County when we were stationed at Loring. Jan. 13, 1965. Second of a set of twins. He entered the army after hi school, was a Ranger, then Special Forces. Eventually he joined Delta. He is mentioned in Gen. Blaber’s book, The Men, The Mission and Me, and in Sean Naylor’s book, Not a Good Day to Die, about the hunt for Bin Laden at Tora Bora. Served several tours in Afganistan and Iraq. Had about a week to go in Iraq and then home and retirement after serving 20 years. Volunteered for that last mission and led a midnight raid to the home of an insurgent who had been tipped off they were coming. He was first in the door. He and the man behind him, also a twin, were shot and killed there. He had emailed me that am, and spoke about his plans for retirement. Left a widow, and a little girl. Died June 17,05. If you met him, he would seem so ordinary—no big shot, nobody special–yet he was awarded some very distinguished medals and was highly regarded by his men. If he gave his word, you knew you could count on it. Thank you for being interested, and in doing what you are doing. Mary Horrigan”
Watch this video to learn why this stone is significant and what it says about MSG Robert M. Horrigan.
MSG Robert Mark Horrigan
“The Pack Mule”
Written by Mary Horrigan—Gold Star Mother
Bob was born in January 1965 in Aroostock County. It was 45 degrees below zero the afternoon my twin boys were born. Bob was the second and the smallest of identical twins, weighting in at 5 lbs. 13 ½ ounces. They were typical boys, into everything. What one didn’t think of, the other one did.
The problem with having twins was that not only did one get chicken pox but so would the other, and if one of them fell out of an apple tree, it seemed the other would fall down the stairs. Usually within a few hours of each other. If one stepped on a nail in the barn, then the other cut his foot on something else the same day. Might as well bring both in for their tetanus shot, the other one would soon need it. Bob was seven months old when he got his first black eye. He had crawled behind the back door when my husband was opening it, not knowing he was there. My mom came up to babysit and exclaimed, “Oh good, I’ll be able to tell them apart.” When we returned from shopping, his brother John had a black eye too! He had climbed up a piece of furniture and tumbled off.
Bob was an average student. He was far more interested in hunting and fishing than school. Both twins were boy scouts. On the evenings they would return from weekend camp outs and they would fall asleep over their supper, their blonde heads almost falling into their plates. When the twins were in high school they would occasionally play “switch” going to each other’s classes. They got to be quite adept at confusing their teaches, and many of their girlfriends too.
In his junior year of high school Bob got interested in running. He signed up for a twenty-five mile race and started training. But he got sick and was only able to train for fifteen miles before the time for the race. I didn’t think he should go but he did. No, he didn’t win that race, but he finished it, limping and vomiting the last eight miles. He had given his word.
In their senior year both twins signed up for the Army. His brother served his enlistment and left to marry his sweetheart, but Bob liked the Army and remained. He had become a Ranger and tried out for the “Best Ranger Competition” a vigorous trial of running, swimming and biking. He came in second. “Someday,” he said, “I’d like to do the Iron Man Competition.”
Bob met the love of his life, a girl he’d gone to high school with and they married. It couldn’t have been easy for her. His job took him away for months at a time, and the divorce rate in his line of work is very high. But they stayed together. They were blessed with a baby girl whose birth he almost didn’t get to attend, and to whom he adored.
Later Bob joined the Special Forces. His team nicknamed him the pack mule, because he would carry the gear of the others when they became so fatigued they could no longer keep up. Yet Bob wasn’t a big man, 5’ 10”and 175 lbs. After his death, I found in the house a small piece of jewelry. It was a necklace, a small donkey carrying a basket of jewels on his back. I had never seen it before. I wore it for year thinking of Bob and his strength. The Delta Force is the Army’s equivalent to the Navy Seals. It’s very vigorous training. Few made it, he did.
Bob had been in Bosnia and Central America. He’d gone to Afghanistan three or four times, Iraq four or five. He has been written about in three books. General Blaber’s The Men the Mission and Me; Sean Naylor’s Not a Good Day to Die; and a novel by Bard Thor, Take Down.” He and Brad were friends.
I quote from Sean’s book. “Second in command was another master sergeant, thirty-eight year old Bob H. who functioned as a ‘pack mule’ on patrols, carrying other operators’ gear if they were having trouble keeping up. Bighearted and reliable, Bob’s reputation was of a guy who wouldn’t quit. If you are in a bad situation, there’s nobody you’d rather have beside you, cause he’s gonna be there,” said another Delta NCO.
Speedy, a team leader, and Bob were close friends and made terrific recce team. Both were extraordinarily fit and avid outdoorsmen—expert trackers and game hunters. If you needed two men to track a chipmunk in a 100,000 acre forest and kill it with one bullet, these are the two,” said General Blaber later. “Having Speedy and Bob on the same team was like having Daniel Boone and Simon Kenton together in the frontier days—as hunters and athletes— they had no peer.”
Bob had served twenty years and was retiring from the military in the fall. He had less than a week left in Iraq. He e-mailed me the A.M. he died. He wrote about the house he and his wife hoped to buy, the schooling he hoped to go back to. He wrote about working with his twin brother in metal work and the job he might get. All those plans lost.
He volunteered for that last mission. They guy who was supposed to lead it had broken his ankle. Bob was first in the door on a night raid. Somehow the insurgents knew they were coming. Bob entered the room and was shot. The cry went out, “An Eagle down.”
We buried him in Arlington. In a place where heroism is common, I now have a personal hero. Yet my son would never have considered himself one. The way he saw it, he was just doing his duty. In letter to me Bob had wrote, “Mom, sometimes wars are worth fighting.”
Bob gave his life for what he believed in.