Army Master Sgt. Robert M. Horrigan


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.   IMG_0662

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.



  1. Nancy White, GSM Godmother/aunt of CPT Jay Brainard, KIA Memorial Day 2012 says

    What a powerful story Mary Alice! Your son was a brave and honorable man, and our state and our nation owe Him and your family a debt of gratitude for his selfless sacrifice. May God keep you. GSM Godmother, Nancy White ( Aunt of CPT J. Jay Brainard, KIA 5/28/2012)

  2. Kim Hamlyn says

    Mrs. Horrigan, my name is Kim Hamlyn. I am a member of The Patriot Riders of America Maine Chapter One, we are having a Spring Ride for the Troops and it will be my honor and privilege to carry your sons memory and stone on this ride. Your son was a true hero and role model. It is with deep sorrow and pride to honor him in such a wonderful way. I want to thank you for the ultimate sacrifice the loss of your son. My son served in Afghanistan and it was the toughest 10 months I have ever spent. I not only carry this stone for your sons memory but for all those who have served and are still serving. My husband Peter and I will be part of the Summit Project and I hope I have the opportunity to meet you and learn more about your son. God bless you and your family.

  3. Manny Manno says

    Hi Mary,
    It was an honor to meet you during the hike. I had the honor of carrying your son’s stone to the summit, and placed it at the top along with the other stones. We observed a moment of silence and spoke about each of the soldiers – this was very emotional for me, as over the past few months, I have learned quite a bit about your son – I feel like I really know him. I’ve learned that he was a quiet humble man, that would never stop and never quit, and those are the feelings I had with me at the summit – his perserverance and love of his country. The sacrifice your son made was the ultimate sacrifice, but its important to know that the memory of your son is not forgotten, it will live on with me forever -and so will the moment that I presented the stone to you. It was an emotional touching moment that I will not soon forget.

    I can never understand what it feels like to lose a son defending our liberty, but I can make sure his sacrifice is worth it. I will have your son in my thoughts every time I live life to the fullest, remembering that I have these opportunities because of sacrifices like this. Thank you for raising an honorable and respectable citizen, who took the oath to defend our country.

    Manny Manno, TSP Hiker, Memorial Day 2014

  4. Judith Heath says

    My youngest brother Mark McAfee was very proud to carry that precious stone across the finish line yesterday at the Trek Across Maine …what a brave son you have Mrs. Horrigan, I am proud of the true American soldier you raised….God Bless you

  5. says

    Tony Barrett — Finishing cyclist of the 2014 Trek Across Maine wrote —

    I wanted to remember Bob (Army Master Sgt. Robert M. Horrigan) because he is an older casualty (would be 50 years old if still alive today) and I am older. He died on June 17 (Father’s Day weekend in 2005) on his last mission in Iraq before his retirement from the Army. The memorial stone that I carried was selected by his Mom from a family orchard in Belfast. I brought the stone back to Belfast on Sunday as part of 2014 Trek Across Maine.

    A photo and short description was mounted on the back of my bicycle. I am not a fast rider and while being passed by many of the 2,600 bicyclists (or ‘trekkers’ as they are called), they could see the photo. Also, when my bike was parked or at rest stops, people would stop and look at the photo. I would guess that about 50 people asked me about the photo which provided me an opportunity to tell Bob’s story – that he was a father killed on Father’s Dayweekend – that he was on his last mission & about to retire – and that the stone being carried with his inscription was from an orchard in Belfast. Many of those people with whom I spoke were touched by the story and thanked me for carrying the stone. Two bicyclists asked if they could carry the stone in their back jersey pocket (they didn’t have a rack or bag) –

    to which I agreed. However, they only made this request after long, uphill climbs (so they could have the downhill with the stone ). American Lung Association staffer, Katie O’Neill, sought me out at Colby College and asked for her photo to be taken with the stone. Katie had written a press release about the Summit Project and Maine Memorial for fallen soldiers, in which Bob’s name was mentioned. She also inserted into the evening program mention of the Summit Project and the names of the three soldiers being remembered.

    Carrying the stone certainly made me more aware of the sacrifice by young men & women from Maine. Several people that I talked to were vets themselves, were still working in the children with the Maine 133rd. The current circumstances in Iraq make Bob’s loss even more poignant. At the finish line, there was a signature board for all riders to sign their names to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Trek. Bob’s name is on the top center of the board.

    Tony Barrett Harpswell, ME June 17, 2014

  6. Mariah St.Pierre says

    Dear family and friends of veteran,

    The Summit Project is one of the greatest experiences I have had in my high school career so far. With learning about war and literature in my English class and then being able to learn about our fallen soldiers in Maine, I was able to get the full picture of war in our lives today. We have read and watched many things about war and how it has affected people’s lives, and now that we are able to involve ourselves in this program, it made the unit even more interesting to learn.
    Reading about Robert Horrigan made realize the prices and tragedies of war. Horrigan served 7 tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. What saddened me the most was that he died a week before was done his last tour. He was a father, a husband, a son, and a twin brother. Being so committed to the army, Horrigan was a very honorable soldier. He joined the army right after high school and continued on until he was forty. He was looked to being such an ordinary guy, but in truth he was so smart, wise, and brave. He was so brave that he was the first one to walk through the door before he was killed in Iraq, June 17, 2005.
    While I was carrying his rock up the mountain, I was thinking about his commitment and bravery to the army. His rock came from a stone wall near an apple tree that his mother used to play in when she was little. The stone was small yet had so much meaning. I am proud to be a part of the Summit Project. I will gladly join in again another day.

  7. Nathaniel E. Prescott says

    Dear Loved Ones,

    I came into the summit project through my high school, Edward Little. As I researched Robert M. Horrigan I was overcome with admiration. He lived his life staying true to himself and to others. He was a natural born leader. The fact that he went from Rangers, to special forces, to delta force at such a young age is awe inspiring. It in fact inspired me to consider joining the Marines. From what his mother posted on the Summit website he was very modest, and that is something that is very hard to come by.

    As I carried his rock up Bradbury I kept on thinking about the uphill battle he went through, or all soldiers go through in war. I became so overwhelmed that I ran up Bradbury the whole way not stopping except for a few times to let the others catch up. I felt that if he had to give 110% the whole time then so should I. I imagined he had to run a lot so I thought I could connect a little better if I experienced some kind of physical exertion.

    I give you my condolences on the loss of him, whether he is your brother, father, son, nephew, or grandson. I know what it is like to lose family. I felt honored to be chosen to carry his memory. I wish I could have met him. He seemed to be kind of a mans man and a good friend. He was honest and almost never lied, which is very admirable since it is human nature to lie. I respect that a lot. I am positive that he is in a better place and the he wouldn’t want you all to be sad, but joyful for he has found his peace.


    Nathaniel E. Prescott
    Auburn, Maine.

  8. says

    on DEC 27, 2014, Erina White wrote:

    To the Horrigan Family,

    I was deeply honored to carry MSG Robert Horrigan’s memory sake up Borestone Mountain in Piscataquis County, Maine. My sisters and I have a family tradition of hiking Borestone on Christmas day. This year we all made the treck with memories of some of Maine’s finest heroes.

    It was a beautiful winter day. It had been raining for days and the sun broke through the clouds as we started the hike. I couldn’t help but feel Robert’s presence: his courage, connection with the outdoors, quiet strength, leadership, and kindness. It seems that all that knew him loved him.

    I felt his never-quit leadership as my sneakers filled with cold water and the wind chill temps dipped well into the single digits. And I felt his joyful spirit when I hoisted his stone high into the sun-setting sky.

    As a mom (of a young daughter), wife, sister and fellow Mainer, I can’t help but mourn his loss on a deeply personal level.

    What a gift he was to all of us.
    Thank you for sharing Robert’s story and stone.

    — and thank you for your sacrifice.

    Erina White

  9. Morgan Anderson says

    To the friends and family of MSG Robert M. Horrigan,

    My name is Morgan Anderson, and I was honored to carry MSG Robert M. Horrigan’s stone and memory in a New Year’s Day hike of Mt. Monroe in New Hampshire. There were only two of us hiking, myself and Ted Coffin. We both carried the stone of a fallen soldier from Aroostook County. It is typical of a TSP hike to have a circle ceremony at the summit to share stories of what we have learned about the soldier we were honoring. With this small group on New Year’s Day, that circle ceremony seemed to stretch out over the duration of our hike. Ted and I shared stories about MSG Horrigan and SFC Henderson – about the soldiers and about what we connected with in their story. MSG Horrigan would have been my father’s age today, and he came from an area that I hold very near and dear. He volunteered for his final mission, one week from coming home and retiring. He put his life on the line for his country through a twenty year career, and was just as dedicated to his service in his last week as he was on day one. He is a shining example of the humble, quiet, capable, dedicated people of Maine.

    Ted and I never reached the summit on New Year’s Day. At Lake of the Clouds Hut, the wind conditions and visibility towards the summit kept us from continuing on. We placed the stones of MSG Horrigan and SFC Henderson on the trail sign for a photo and were only able to get one before the temperature shut down our camera. We then began our descent, and just like on the hike up the mountain – we continued to talk about the fallen soldiers who’s stones we carried in our packs. I cannot think of a better way to celebrate the start of 2015 than by celebrating the lives of two of Maine’s finest.

    I want to thank the Horrigan family for sharing MSG Horrigan’s story with all of us at The Summit Project. Not only am I honored to learn about each of our fallen soldiers, but I feel that MSG Horrigan and all of the soldiers honored by TSP are continuing to make each of us better people. Each soldier I learn about also teaches me something about myself and challenges me to honor their memory each and every day through my own actions. MSG Horrigan and SFC Henderson may no longer be with us, but they continue to have a positive impact on all of us through The Summit Project that has a ripple effect to each of the people we touch in our day to day lives.

    Morgan Anderson

  10. Renee Fournier says

    Dear Mrs Horrigan,

    My name is Renee Fournier. I was honored and privileged to carry your son, Robert’s, stone on our hike up the North Peak of Quaggy Jo Mountain at the Aroostook State Park in Presque Isle last weekend with some dear friends. We made the hike the day after I was able to be a part of the Run for Heroes 5K which honored all the fallen heroes from Aroostook County. Robert was honored and his memory shared at this event as well that weekend. It was a beautiful hike on a foggy morning, perfect for introspection and thought.

    The entire weekend, as I learned about your son from the person who carried his stone at the 5K and then had the opportunity to learn about him for my own hike, I was continually struck by his humility, honor, dedication, willingness to be the first in, bravery, and perserverance. When he gave his word, it was final. His story has challenged me to be a better person, friend, and neighbor. Thank you for your sacrifice and especially for being willing to share Bob’s memories and story with those of us who have so much to learn from him. It was an honor and a weekend I will never forget.

    Renee Fournier

  11. Danielle Lombard says

    Dear Mary, Denise, Courtney, John and Daniel,

    My name is Danielle Lombard, a Veteran of the Army National Guard. I reside in Caribou, Maine with my amazing two children Madison (17) and Dakota (12). I currently work for the Department of Defense in Limestone, Maine, where I have been blessed to proudly serve our men and women for the past 8 years. When I was presented with this unbelievable honor of participating in the 5K Run for Hero’s on May 9th, 2015, I immediately accepted this once in a life time opportunity. I can honestly say that I could have never imagined the overwhelming connection that I felt with Robert once I started inquiring about his amazing life. I am currently the same age as Robert was when he so graciously gave his life for our Country at the young at of 40. Robert left this Earth on June 17th, 2005 on a Father’s Day weekend~ I was born on June 16th, 1974, which was Father’s Day that year.
    Throughout my life I have been blessed to have a strong Military background, as my Father served for 20 years in the Maine Army National Guard as a recruiter. He actually enlisted my Sister and I into the service. My Sister proudly holds the title of the first female Black Hawk Piolet in the state of Maine, where she has served two tours overseas since 9-11. During my time in service I met my now ex -husband, who ironically was stationed at Fort Bragg and served in the same unit as Robert did, the 7th Special Forces Group. They did not serve in this unit at the same time frame, but just knowing that I had been in the same compound where Robert so proudly served his Country exhilarated me! At that time my heart also reached out to Denise as I know not only what the Honor of being a Special Forces Wife can bring, but also the challenges it holds and for that I commend you!
    Being able to Honor your Son, Father and Brother has forever changed my life. The pride that I felt while carrying Robert’s stone as other Military Members saluted in his Honor was extremely emotional. Many tears ran down my cheeks that beautiful morning, not in sadness, but in great appreciation for the sacrifice that Robert and the other Fallen Soldiers being honored had given.
    I may have only carried Robert’s stone for a day, but I will carry his story for a Lifetime!

  12. Kathryn F. King says

    May 31, 2015

    Dear Mary Alice,

    Ever since meeting you and carrying Robert’s stone up and down The Owl on Memorial Day weekend, Robert and you have been on my mind.  It doesn’t seem to matter what I’m doing.  Whether I’m washing the supper dishes, taking the dogs out before I go to bed, hanging out a load of wash, or teaching a lesson on the Civil Rights Movement, you have been in my thoughts.  

    Yesterday morning I went up to the Penobscot Valley Championship track meet in Old Town.  By the time I got there, more than 200 young women and men were getting ready to compete.  It was sunny and breezy, one of the first really summery-feeling days we’ve had this spring.  The athletes were practicing their block starts, running over hurdles, taking warmup throws in the javelin and discus, practicing their relay baton passes — chattering, laughing, yelling back and forth to each other across the infield.  The announcer asked everyone to remove their hats for the national anthem.  Everyone fell silent.  The only sounds you could hear were the American flag snapping in the wind, and the flag’s rope and chain clanking gently against the pole.  I expected to hear a soloist sing.  But instead, what broke the silence were the sweet, clear, bright notes of three trumpets; and as they played, an airplane flew overhead.  

    As I watched and listened, I thought about your family and you. I thought about Robert being a distance and cross country runner, and how often he must have stood at attention in a high school track uniform, listening to the national anthem with his eyes fixed on the flag, just like the kids who were standing all around me in this place.  I thought about how mischievous you said Robert was and about the pranks he played, how you said “he was into EVERYTHING,” and how in those and so many other ways he must have been just like the kids here in Old Town on this day, waiting for a track meet to start, counting down the days until summer vacation, waiting for two and half months of freedom, maybe complaining about having to go back to school in September, but still looking forward to the hunting and fishing that so many Texas and Maine kids love so much to do. I thought of all the things I’d read that Robert could do — scuba dive, speak Spanish, parachute, make beautiful knives, shoot a sniper rifle true and far.

    And I thought about Robert’s enlisting in the Army at 19 years old, his decision to become a Ranger.  I remembered reading how, during basic training, Robert ran a race that he really wasn’t in shape to run, dehydrated, overheated, simply refusing to quit.  I remember seeing in a beautiful film from the Texas Fallen Soldiers’ Project your daughter describe how amazing Robert’s accomplishments were, but because he was so humble she had no idea until after his death how many medals he had been awarded.  I heard in that same film Robert’s twin, Jon, saying that when Robert’s country called after September 11th, he answered.  I listened to you describe the pain you have lived with since Robert’s death in Iraq; and I heard Jon say that his brother “laid down his life for everyone here.”  I thought about the stone you found for Robert under the apple tree in Belfast. I thought about meeting you for the first time on the green in front of the Twin Pines lodge, and then of coming down off of the Owl to return Robert’s stone to you in the late afternoon sun last Sunday.  I thought about having dinner with you Sunday evening, listening to stories about your life in Texas, your move back to Maine, your learning of Robert’s death, and your life since.  

    The last few notes from the trumpets hung in the air — then, briefly, it was quiet.  I thought during that breath of quiet how much of a debt we all owe to your son for all that he sacrificed. I thought of the freedom represented in the hundreds of athletes competing joyously and fearlessly in a high school track championship, and in the peace of mind, the liberty represented in a plane full of passengers heading unafraid toward a far-off destination.  I thought of the debt I owe to you for allowing me to learn about your son, the privilege of carrying Robert’s stone up and down a Maine mountain, the privilege of telling others about what a brave, funny, loving, humble, strong, and truly extraordinary human being Robert Mark Horrigan was, and the privilege of meeting you.  

    Thank you for making the time to talk with me, Mary Alice.  Thank you for so graciously sharing your memories.  It was a blessing to have had dinner with you, to talk about pie crust, parenting, faith, flowers, baking bread, and “the hill people and the lake people” in Dedham.  I will be so happy to see you again, to share recipes, and to get to know you better.  And I promise to make sure that your son’s memory lives and flourishes through my teaching, and through my work with The Summit Project.

    Sincerely and lovingly yours,

    Kathryn King

  13. Gerald Myrick says

    To the family of MSG Horrigan,
    Recently it was my honor and privilege to carry Roberts stone thru the town of Lincoln during the summit project. It was an emotional day for all involved. Many of those in attendance like myself were military men and women doing our small part to honor maines hero’s in our own little way. The more I researched Roberts life and career in preparation for the March the more connections I found to this amazing man. We both came from families with long roots in military service both enjoyed the physical fitness sides of our lives and both have a passion for bladesmithing. One more reminder of the brotherhood that we all share. Three days after the summit March I completed my final day in the army setting aside the fifteen year commitment that began when I was only 18. I can think of no better way to end this chapter of my life than honoring a true warrior, a great man, and hero that came before. It has been an honor and a privilege to have share these days ensureing Roberts sacrifice and his lfe will NEVER be forgotten.
    SSG. Gerald Myrick. US ARMY.

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