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Thank You Veterans: Jay Harris

Chief Master Sergeant Jay Harris's military career is now in its 4th decade including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Chief Master Sergeant Jay Harris's military career is now in its 4th decade including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Jay Harris joined the Army Reserves in 1982 while studying at BCC. His reason was practical. "Second income. Then it turned into wanting to serve my country. So, I went from Army Reserves to active duty Air Force."

In 1984, he and his new bride Alycia moved to Arkansas where he was stationed at Little Rock Air Force base as a carpentry specialist. After four years, he left the Air Force and returned home to our area. But three short months later, he joined the Air National Guard squadron based in Syracuse. As he neared the 20 year mark, he considered retiring, but changed his mind following the September 11th terrorist attacks.

"It just didn't seem right to think that now that we're in a conflict it's time to get out. We train for combat and the training helped us through it," said Jay.

Harris and other members of the 174th Civil Engineering Squadron went to New York to assist with recovery efforts at Ground Zero. Then in 2008, they went to Iraq and in 2010 to Afghanistan. In both places, his unit had responsibility for maintaining strategic air fields. And Harris used the skills he's developed as Deputy Commissioner for the Town of Union Public Works. In both cases, his squadron was confined to the base, making it a little easier to deal with the war raging outside the wire.

"You just try not to think about it. You're busy enough to where you don't think about it," said Jay.

Chief Harris has received many awards, including a Meritorious Service Medal and an Iraq Campaign Medal with bronze star. At our ceremony, Congressman Hanna presented him with a flag flown over the U.S. Capitol and a challenge coin. "It is my privilege to be here with you and your family. Congratulations and thank you for your service."

Linda Whitney represented Quilts of Valor. "Quilters all over the United States and other countries have given of themselves to hand-make each Quilt of Valor, or QOV as they are often referred to."

And Ken Gould on behalf of the Southern Tier Veterans Support Group. "I want to give you one of our challenge coins. It represents our organization and what we try to do for other veterans."

Jay says his deployments were probably harder on Alycia who worked and cared for their three children while he was overseas. "Alycia, my wife, thank you very much. I couldn't have been in this long without a strong family. Alycia is my backbone."

Alycia says she nominated Jay to honor his dedication to country. She says he's a true leader. "If something has to get done, he definitely knows how to move people to do what they have to do. And I think the biggest thing both ways is respect."

Jay says he's proud of what the 174th has accomplished. "We did our mission and I thought we did it well. And got home."
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