The father of Major General Harold J. Greene on Wednesday described his son, killed in an Afghanistan insider attack a day earlier, as "unique to the military," a popular kid whose intellect led to his military success.
In an interview at his home in upstate New York, Harold F. Greene told the story of a boy who made a city out of a sand dune, was so smart that Guilderland High School allowed him to skip his senior year, and, as an adult, shaped the weapons used by the military.
"(He) was a kid I could be proud of," his father said. "It's our country that lost, really."
The eldest son of Harold F. Greene and his wife Eva, who died in February 2013, found an "accidental" route to his military career, his father said. During his freshman year at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, he enrolled in the ROTC program to fulfill a physical education requirement required by the college.
His ROTC performance earned him a full academic scholarship, a boon for the family with two other boys about to enter college as well. It also gave his family and the military a preview of what Greene would become, as he rose to Cadet Commander and earned the rank of Second Lieutenant upon graduating from RPI - with both bachelor's and master's degrees - and began his military career.
Greene visited most of the U.S. combat zones during his military career, but was never put on the front lines. His role was more technical, dealing with the processes of developing and implementing weaponry. His father said that the drone program is a byproduct of his son's early career.
"He was unique to the military," his father said. "He was performing a function that took in everything from research to development and he helped develop weapons systems that really help save a lot of lives in the field."
As a captain, he married his wife, then-Captain Sue Myers. Myers, now a retired colonel, who is a professor at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where the family has a home. The couple has two children, Amelia and Matthew, who is a West Point graduate and a first lieutenant in the Army.
Greene had received his second star as a general and was eligible to retire, but he opted to continue his career.
The last time the elder Greene saw his oldest son was December, but it was just a coincidence that it was around the winter holidays. Major General Greene made it a point to visit his family whenever he returned from a tour.
He was shot and killed in Afghanistan on Tuesday. His body will arrive at Dover Air Force Base early on Thursday and he will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
The Afghan who opened fire on the high-ranking delegation visiting a military complex in Kabul that included Greene had served in the army for three years, an Afghan defense official said on Wednesday.
In the immediate aftermath of Tuesday's attack, the Defense Ministry had described the gunman, who was also killed, as a "terrorist in army uniform", indicating its belief he was an Islamist militant who had infiltrated the army from outside.
While details about the identity of the soldier and his motivation remain sketchy, the fact that he had spent so long in the army before turning on fellow soldiers is likely to be a major line of inquiry in an investigation launched on Wednesday.
"What motivated the shooting is still under investigation, but the shooter was an army soldier, not a terrorist from outside the base," said the official.
Initial findings from the investigation were due to land on Afghan President Hamid Karzai's desk by the evening.
Greene was the most senior U.S. military official killed in action overseas since the war in Vietnam. A German general was also among 14 coalition troops wounded after the man opened fire with a light machine gun.
The attack has raised fresh questions about the ability of NATO soldiers stationed in Afghanistan to train local forces, and will undermine trust between them at a crucial time.
Most foreign soldiers plan to withdraw from the war-torn country by the end of 2014, but, recognizing the challenge Afghan forces face in battling a vicious insurgency led by the Taliban, a contingent could remain beyond the deadline in a training and counter-insurgency role.