Soldier, Vietnam Vet Father Receive
Silver Stars in Long-Distance Ceremony
(December 4, 2008)
Army Chief Warrant Officer
Jonathan Harris receives a handshake from Army
Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Schloesser after being
presented the Silver Star at Bagram Airfield,
Afghanistan, November 28, 2008.
Afghanistan, Dec. 1, 2008 – Though decades
separate the Vietnam War and the war on
terrorism, a common denominator in the two
conflicts has been the bravery and sacrifice of
the American servicemember.
Army Chief Warrant Officer Jonathan Harris
received the Silver Star Medal here Nov. 28
while his father, former Army Staff Sgt. Gary
Harris, simultaneously was decorated for his
valor in Vietnam during a joint long-distance
The Harris family watched from a conference room
at Fort Campbell, Ky., as the younger Harris
received the Silver Star here from Army Maj.
Gen. Jeffrey J. Schloesser, commander of
Combined Joint Task Force 101. Meanwhile,
soldiers here watched a video screen as the
elder Harris was pinned with the Silver Star and
a Bronze Star he earned serving in Vietnam.
Neither medal had been formally presented to him
“It's very rare that we
present the Silver Star,” Schloesser said. “We
have a very high standard, and we make sure that
the few who do earn it have done so through
selfless sacrifice. It's clear that Mr. Harris
did that, and it is also clear that the nation
owes a debt to [former] Staff Sgt. Gary Harris.
It was almost 40 years ago that he earned it,
and I hope in some small way that we can pay
back that debt by presenting
him his award with his son's
Personal courage and selfless service
could be said to run in the Harris family bloodline, as both
father and son reacted similarly in their encounters with
enemy forces. Both risked their lives to ensure the safety
of their comrades. |
The elder Harris displayed this courage Aug. 15, 1969, as a
squad leader in Vietnam. He and his company were patrolling
a perimeter near Gol Ree and were attacked with mortars and
rocket fire. He quickly directed the members of his squad to
return fire on the enemy.
As the attack died down, he moved his squad closer to the
perimeter, which had been weakened during the barrage. As
the enemy resumed its assault, he again directed his squad
to return fire, breaking the enemy attack. During the
engagement, he risked his life by helping medics to aid
wounded Marines and helping to bring them to safety.
The younger Harris also displayed bravery in the face of
danger. On July 2, Harris, a UH-60 Black Hawk pilot assigned
to Company C, 5th Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade,
landed his helicopter at a landing zone near Gardez,
Afghanistan, to pick up soldiers for transport when his
aircraft came under attack by enemies using rocket-propelled
grenades, a heavy machine gun and various assault rifles.
With the aircraft on fire, Harris and crew managed to fly it
a short distance before putting it down again. After safely
exiting the burning helicopter, the entire crew took up a
defensive position. They managed to contact a CH-47 Chinook
that was in the area to help extract them from the
battlefield. As the Chinook landed, the enemy resumed fire.
It was then that Harris, who was helping one of his wounded
crew chiefs to the helicopter, exposed himself to fire by
engaging and killing an approaching enemy combatant. He
entered the helicopter only after ensuring that the members
of his crew, the ground forces and the quick-reaction force
were safely aboard.
“Mr. Harris has been great since the incident,” said Army
Sgt. DeeJay Norby, a crew chief who was also involved in the
action at Gardez. “He didn't get down or anything afterward;
he went right back to business doing his job. It's really
awesome getting to fly with a great group of pilots and crew
This was not the first award that Harris has received during
this deployment. He also earned the Air Medal with valor
In his short address, Harris thanked his flight crew and the
crew of the Chinook that performed the rescue operation.
“I'm so lucky to serve with so many great heroes,” he said.
“Without them, the outcome might not have been so good.”
He also gave a heartfelt thank you to his father, whose life
and service, he said, set the example for him.
“Every time people thank us for our service, I tell them to
thank a Vietnam vet,” he said. “So Dad, I want to thank you
photo by Army Spc. George Welcome
American Forces Press Service
Army Spc. George Welcome serves with the
101st Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs Office.
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