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Johnson City man honored in calendar for Vietnam service

Rex Barber • Feb 22, 2012 at 11:32 AM

Willard “Will” Harris was not expecting to find himself depicted in a calendar, but he was thrilled to find out recently an image of him at age 18 had been included in the pages of the National Museum of the United States Army 2012 Calendar.

“I consider this a real privilege and a real honor to be honored like this,” Harris said, pointing to the picture of him in Army attire shortly before he shipped out to Vietnam. “Now I don’t want to put myself above nobody. We was all brothers and sisters over there fighting.”

Harris, who is from Johnson City, joined the Army right out of high school. He chose to go into the infantry because he said he never wanted to ask anyone for anything and would certainly not ask anyone to do anything he would not do.

“I figured that would be the roughest part of the war,” he said. “I felt like I would do more good.

“People ask me a lot of times, ‘Was you scared?’ You don’t get scared in a firefight. When it’s over with you get scared.”

Harris’ picture is shown on the February page, along with seven other soldiers who served in Vietnam. A caption above their images reads: “Honoring these, and all who served in Vietnam.”

Each month represents a different American conflict and includes more soldiers from that era and a matching painting or sketch. The painting for Harris’ month is of soldiers cleaning an artillery piece.

Harris actually served in the demilitarized zone and was not around artillery.

Harris appears to be the only local person depicted in the calendar.

According to information on the inside cover of the calendar, the artwork selected for each month was intended to give a historic dimension but also a personal perspective.

The National Museum of the United States Army is scheduled to open June 14, 2015, at Fort Belvoir, Va. This year’s calendar can be purchased via the Army Historical Foundation website at armyhistory.org.

“What I like about it is it tells events on certain days,” Willard said of the calendar.

Important dates throughout American military history are listed in the calendar. The calendar records the first muster of the Massachusetts Bay Colony militia in 1636.

Willard’s oldest sister submitted his name for inclusion in the calendar. She did not tell him she had done so. He found out he was in the calendar when someone at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Mountain Home, told him of his appearance.

“I was told there was over 80,000 (names) they chose from,” he said.

Harris left the Army as a sergeant. Now he advocates for servicemen and women through Rolling Thunder, Chapter 4.

He said it was important to remember veterans from all wars, including Vietnam veterans and those currently fighting in the global war on terror.

“We gave them a safe country to grow up in and now they’re giving us a safe country to retire in,” Harris said.

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