By Crystal Burns
Retired Colonel Chuck Harrison spent his formative years surrounded by veterans and saw the impact they made on his community.
Harrison, a Dyer native and Peabody High School alumnus, called several of the men who influenced his own military career by name during a personal keynote address at Oakland Cemetery Committee’s annual Veterans Day program held Friday at the National Guard Armory.
“Veterans enrich their communities,” Harrison said. “They serve their churches, their cities, and most importantly, their families and friends.”
Harrison was in school at the University of Tennessee at Martin when he enrolled in a ROTC course. While in ROTC, he joined the National Guard. After graduating from UT Martin, Harrison entered active duty in the U.S. Army and attended Flight School.
On Thanksgiving Day 1986, Harrison’s unit was in South Korea. His commander wanted to visit troops near the border of North Korea, and Harrison piloted the helicopter. They landed further south to avoid North Korean forces and were met by a unit that included Harrison’s Trenton friend John Nowell, whose father J.C. Nowell had a profound impact on Harrison.
“We celebrated by acting like kids basically within spitting distance of North Korea,” Harrison joked. “I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to see a hometown friend in such a faraway place.
“I’m very proud of growing up in this community,” he said.
While Harrison said he is appreciative of the gratitude he receives, especially on Veterans Day, it was his honor to serve in the Army and follow in the footsteps of so many others, including several of his family members.
“Without you, we would not be the country we are today,” Harrison said.
Harrison is a Master Army Aviator, commanding and leading aviation units and flying Cobra, Kiowa, Apache and Apache Longbow, and Special Operations Little Bird Gun helicopters. His military career took him all over the world including the DMZ of Korea, Bosnia, Kosovo, Albania, Somalia and Iraq. Harrison has served at the lowest tactical level in the Army and as a senior staff officer in the United States Special Operations command where he was an advisor to the commander and responsible for a $1 billion annual budget.
Harrison is currently employed by Universal Strategy Group, Inc., in Franklin. Some of his awards and decorations include the Silver Star, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Air Medal, Master Aviator Badge, and the Parachute Badge.
Trenton Mayor Ricky Jackson served as emcee at the armory. State Representative Curtis Halford and County Mayor Tom Witherspoon expressed their gratitude to veterans.
“The debts we owe to you gentlemen and ladies we just cannot repay,” Halford said.
“As a country, we’ll never, ever be guilty of doing too much for our veterans,” Witherspoon said.
Trenton Alderman Joe Hammonds sang “God Bless the USA” and “God Bless America,” and the Trenton Rosenwald Middle School band performed the “Star-Spangled Banner” and the “Armed Forces Medley.”
Oakland Cemetery Committee members served free BBQ to all veterans and guests.
Prior to the program at the armory, a brief ceremony was held at Oakland Cemetery where members of Gibson County Vietnam Veterans of America presented the flag, veterans Terry “Rabbit” Bailey and A.T. Tole placed a wreath at the veterans’ monument, and Peabody senior Claire Rollins played “Taps.” Brian Griffith, pastor of Trenton First United Methodist Church, offered prayer at the cemetery and armory.