Veteran Salute: Nearly 70 years later, Korean War hero receives medals

Veteran Salute

LAKIN, Kan. (KSNW) – A Kearny County veteran says it was like Christmas when he finally got some recognition for his time in the Korean War.

A fire destroyed millions of service records, and Jack Harris’ records were part of those burned.

“After fighting so long,” Korean War Veteran Jack Harris said.

Harris is talking about the battle that started after he survived the Korean War.

“Research, research, and more evidence,” Harris said.

Pages and pages of paperwork, decades worth of documents show Harris’ time in service started in the infantry, along with 6,000 other soldiers.

“They put17 of us on the train, it took seven days to go to Hiroshima, Nagasaki,” Harris said.

That’s where the recruits attended signal school.

“I kept the telephones working for the infantry, and the artillery,” Harris said.

He was attached to the 7th Division, and climbed rank quickly.

“They put me in charge of the team,” Harris said.

He said the enemy was everywhere.

“Every day it was watching for sniper fire,” Harris said.

He and other soldiers were tasked with running communication lines, during the Battle of the Punch Bowl, one of the last in the movement phase of the Korean War.

“He evidently stepped on this mine behind me,” Harris said. “It severed his leg, his left leg.”

The explosion also wounded Harris.

“I got hit in the back of the head and arms,” Harris said.

He said he used some of his equipment to make a tourniquet.

“He was bleeding awful bad, I carried him over a mile,” Harris said.

He said they made it to the medic tent.

“I remember saying, do you suppose I could get some help in here?” Harris said.

He doesn’t remember much after that.

“I don’t remember the trip on the helicopter,” Harris said. “I passed out, I guess, after getting him taken care of.”

In no time, Harris was back in action but that was after they figured out he was still alive.

“They followed these lines and found all of equipment and blood and stuff,” Harris said.

He said the company officials thought the two were AWOL.

“They didn’t know where we were for three days,” Harris said. “They sent me back to my company, and everything I had was gone,” Harris said.

He said all of his photos, medals, and even his records were missing, once he returned to the battlefield.

Then, he was wounded again while out working in two foot of snow.

“It was hell,” Harris said.

It was 40 degrees below zero.

“The South Korean patrol started firing on us, they didn’t know who we were,” Harris said. “When I got shot, well I froze my feet and legs.”

He said South Koreans gave them shelter for the night in a cave.

“I woke up the next morning, and my shirt stuck to me, and I got to looking and I’d been shot,” Harris said.

After being wounded twice, the Sergeant was so ready to get shipped home.

“I kept watching the bulletin board, my name wasn’t there, wasn’t there, I asked everybody and they wouldn’t tell me,” Harris said.

He finally found out, was being held over, to receive a medal for carrying his wounded comrade.

“I had to borrow these clothes,” Harris said.

Harris said you can tell by the photo of the medal presentation, the coat he was wearing didn’t belong to him.

It was a Private’s coat and he was a Sergeant.

He said the man who awarded him the Purple Heart told him he would get the rest of his medals when he returned home.

Once he was discharged, Harris said he waited for decades.

“Why did it take so long?” Harris said.

After digging up and filing thousands of documents, Harris gave up.

Then after so many times of trying so did his son, but then, he decided to give it one last shot.

“It means the world to me,” Harris said.

In front of more than 100 family and friends, those still serving stepped forward to ensure, nearly seventy years after he returned from the Korean War, the hero got the medals he earned.

“But I don’t have them all, I’m 90 years old,” Harris said.

He said more medals belong in his shadow box.

“I’d like to have the rest of them, for my family,” Harris said.

Harris said every doctor he has been to, says he should have been given a medical discharge, he still suffers from medical issues, related to his time in the Korean War.

He says he is still also fighting to receive the government services he earned in the Korean War.

Harris didn’t give up his spirit of service. Once he got out of the Army, he was a Lakin Volunteer firefighter for 30 years.

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