Wednesday, November 05, 2014

A Humble Hero: (Ret.) Chief Master Sgt. Peter S. Harding

This Veteran's Day, 2014 I honor my brother-in-law. 

I have known Peter for the forty-six years I have been with his sister, Donna. Yet if I add up all the time I have spent with him, it would be less than a week. This is due simply to the fact that he spent thirty years deployed in service to his country and has retired far from my home in Massachusetts. However, his career is remarkable and I desire honor his selfless exemplary service.

I’d like to begin by listing the military decorations Peter earned over the course of his career: three Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Bronze Star, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, four Air Force Meritorious Service Medals, five Air Medals, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, and two Air Force Commendation Medals. He logged over 2,500 hours of flying time and completed over 400 parachute jumps.

Peter is a 1965 graduate of Foxboro High School and entered the Air Force in 1966. He was trained as a para-rescueman – a combat rescue and survival specialist earning Navy Diver qualifications, Army parachutist training, medical training and combat tactics.

Soon after training Peter was stationed in Thailand for a year, from where he flew helicopter rescue missions into North Vietnam to retrieve downed American pilots. During his second year-long tour in Thailand, he was involved in the evacuation of Saigon and the recovery of the crew of the cargo vessel Mayaguez, captured and held hostage by Cambodian forces on the island of Ko Tang. His parachute team was one of the first military units placed on alert to rescue U. S. personnel taken hostage in Iran. He was later deployed with a nine-man para-rescue team at the onset of problems with Iraq and was a key planner of the initial air assault against the Iraqi air defenses and follow-on rescue operations through the entire Gulf War. In the final years of his career, Peter was involved with astronaut rescue operations and was selected to work with NASA engineers to develop and evaluate escape vehicle design options for the U.S. Space station.

Significantly, in August of 1974 Peter returned home to walk his sister, Donna, down the aisle on our wedding day. He will always be a hero, and just as importantly to us, a loving uncle and great-uncle to our children and grand-children.... and to me, the big brother I never had growing up.

Thank you, Peter.