The soldiers huddled together under an American flag, several of them armed with confetti cannons.
One of their own, Army Spec. Christopher Harris, had been killed in August by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan, and they wanted to help celebrate a moment he wasn’t alive to see.
“My boy Harris, we’re gonna do it for him — we going to see what kind of baby he’s going to have,” Cpl. Nathan Bagley, a paratrooper, said in a cellphone video filmed in that country late last week. “I don’t know if it’s a boy or girl or zebra or unicorn, but we’re about to find out.”
“On my count. You ready?” he told the others.
“Three . . .
“Two . . .
Pink confetti exploded amid cheers, applause and goofy dances.
Brittany Harris, more than 7,000 miles away, wanted the soldiers to learn what she already knew: It’s a girl. So she sent them the pink-colored confetti to let them share her joy.
“I came up with the idea because I felt like the soldiers still deployed would be forgotten or feel left out,” the soon-to-be-mother told The Washington Post in Facebook messages.
“They’re still grieving,” the 26-year-old said. “They’re just doing it away from the rest of us. I wanted them to be the first to know the gender and reveal it, to let them know they’re family and part of this journey with me.”
Harris said she was overwhelmed with excitement.
“It showed me that they’re all keeping their promises to Chris to look after his family and be involved,” she said. “I cried tears of joy. It was so great to see how they reacted.”
Christopher and Brittany were married in October 2016; less than a year later, Brittany, was pregnant.
Brittany Harris, who lives in Southern Pines, N.C., said she told her husband the good news with a onesie covered in ducklings and a message: “Chris, you’re going to be a dad!”
“He was ecstatic,” she recalled, adding that she spoke with him via FaceTime while he was in Afghanistan. “He wanted to be a dad more than anything.”
But he would never have the chance to meet his daughter. Christopher Harris was killed Aug. 2, when Brittany Harris was only about six weeks pregnant with their child.
His patrol vehicle was “struck by a vehicle borne improvised explosive device,” according to his obituary.
The next day, Brittany Harris posted a heartbreaking message on Facebook: “As the news spreads about the two soldiers killed in action yesterday in Afghanistan it is with a very heavy and broken heart that I confirm one of them was my husband Chris Harris.
“We had recently discovered I am in the very early weeks of pregnancy. Right now that is my main concern and I want to try and make sure everything continues to be healthy considering these crushing circumstances.”
Her husband’s obituary said that he was an avid fisherman “who loved spending time on the water” and that he joined the Army in 2013, then became a paratrooper in the “Devil” Brigade.
Harris was a member of the 2nd Battalion, 504th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division, based at Fort Bragg, N.C., said Lt. Col. Joe Buccino, spokesman for the 82nd Airborne Division.
“We cling tight to the memory of Chris Harris,” he said in a statement Thursday. “He — and all of our Fallen — are forever part of our All American Legacy. We cherish Britt Harris as we do all of our Gold Star Families. She and her daughter are All Americans for life.”
Cpl. Casey Weafer, a paratrooper who popped open one of the confetti cannons for Harris, said the fallen soldier was his best friend.
He admitted that he was “hoping for a boy,” but said in a Facebook message that “as long as it’s a healthy baby, that’s all that matters.”
Brittany Harris said the baby girl, who is due March 24, will be named Christian Michelle Harris in honor of her father, Christopher Michael Harris.