WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — A gifted student, Harvey Nero was just 20 years old when he graduated from Southern University. With his degree in industrial technology, he started working for Boeing in 1964. The project he was assigned to quickly proved to be out of this world.

“I worked as a technician testing a lot of the components and systems that would find their way onto the spacecraft,” Nero said.

For the next four years, Nero would work as a technician for NASA’s Apollo Space Program.

“Boeing had just started their operation down in New Orleans, they were building this first stage of the, the booster stage of the Saturn program. When I saw the labs over there, a lot of electric stuff going on there, so I, I decided that was kinda the career I kinda wanted to follow,” Nero said.

Working with a team of 15 (in conjunction with several other departments), Nero specifically tested systems for the Saturn launch vehicles.

“That was some of the most exciting work I’ve had really, because there was nothing held back—they kinda wanted to beat Russia to the moon, you know?” Nero said.

Because of his involvement with NASA, Nero received at least two draft deferments during Vietnam. But that changed in 1968.

“When I got about 25 years old, I guess they decided, ‘well, we better get him on in there,’ otherwise, you know, because 26 was usually the cutoff date,” Nero said.

After basic training, Nero would be stationed at the U.S. Army Electronics Proving Grounds at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. There, he used his electrical engineering expertise to test military aircraft (specifically, the twin turboprop Mohawk).

“I worked alongside civilian people testing a lot of the surveillance and audiovisual equipment that was going to the airplanes that they were using over in Vietnam,” Nero said.

Then, on July 20, 1969, Nero would watch with the rest of the world the moment he had worked so hard to achieve become a reality.

“[They] had about 30 seconds of fuel to spare, when they announced the Eagle has landed. Almost seven hours later, Armstrong exited the landing and set foot on the moon’s surface. You felt, yeah, you felt pretty good about that whole thing, that whole episode,” Nero said.

After two years in the Army, Nero would go back to Boeing. He would go on to work for the FAA as an aerospace engineer and an engineering program manager. He retired after 20 years in 2011.

If you would like to nominate a veteran for our Veteran Salute, email KSN reporter Hannah Adamson at hannah.adamson@ksn.com.