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Purple Heart veteran recounts deployment

Posted on Wednesday, May 15, 2019 at 11:56 am

Jack Harris, a Purple Heart recipient who lives in Warsaw, recounted his Vietnam War experience for the first time in 52 years, telling a group of Northumberland High School students how five months in Vietnam changed his life forever.

Harris was a 19-year-old, thrill-seeking college dropout when he joined the army in 1964. He enlisted for infantry and parachute training and was assigned to the 82nd Airborne division.

His first combat experience came soon after when he was sent to the Dominican Republic to help crush a rebellion.

That involved several months searching for and killing rebels, he explained. One day while he was alone on guard duty, a pickup truck with a mounted machine gun came out nowhere. There were five men and they leveled the gun at him.

“But the weapon jammed and I survived. That was the first time, other than jumping out of airplanes, that I cheated the grim reaper,” he told the students.

Not long after returning home, on Christmas in 1965, Harris and about 25 other soldiers were sent to Vietnam. Most soldiers were transported on ships, but they were sent on a civilian jet. Young and oblivious of what they were heading to, Harris said he felt like they were traveling in style. The soldiers drank all the alcohol on the plane, and when it stopped in Hawaii to refuel, the crew restocked and they drank more.

For the full article, pick up the latest Northumberland Echo 5/15/19