img 0194Bill HarrisonPhotos and article by Mary Alice Murphy

World War II Veteran Bill Harrison, who served in the Navy in the Pacific Theater during World War II, will turn 102 on June 22, 2024.

Harrison said he was pleased to receive this early birthday gift, a flag flown at the national monument of the USS Arizona, which was sunk by Japanese forces during the attack on Pearl Harbor from the commander.

Rear Admiral Stephen Barnett presently serves as the commander of the Navy Region Hawaii.

img 0195The commendation citation was signed by Barnett and the National Park Service Superintendent of the Pearl Harbor Memorial Park Tom Leatherman and notes that the flag was flown at the USS Arizona monument on Jan. 12, 2024.

"I served as a secretary under Admiral Chester Nimitz, who was Pacific Fleet commander-in-chief managing allied air, land and sea forces during World War II," Harrison said. "We served at the submarine base in Hawaii, but it showed that he was on the USS West Virginia, because he didn't want the Japs to know where he was.

"I've been on the Arizona, Marge and I," Harrison continued. "It's bottom side up 30-some feet down on its keel, its bottom and a platform is on top of it. On the beach on Ford Island, is the actual history memorial of Pearl Harbor. You listen to that and then you take boat out to where the Arizona is. That has become a national park now."

Harrison said he and his late wife, Marge, went to the USS Arizona when they were in Hawaii at the National Conference of Conservation Districts. "I was on the national board then and we went out and took the tour of Pearl Harbor to show Marge the park."

He said that when he was Silver City Town manager, he also began serving as a volunteer on the Grant Soil and Water Conservation District and did that for 20 years, including on the state commission and the national board, and was later elected to head four states of the conservation districts - Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico. "The last two years I was on the 3-man executive committee."

Harrison also began the Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments, and later served a term as county commissioner, in addition to teaching business law at Western New Mexico University. In addition, he served as the district director for Red Cross and was on the board of the United Way Fund and on the Grant County Community Concerts Association board. "I did it all to serve my community. It's what you're supposed to do. The only thing I regret is while I was doing all those things, I was neglecting my family."

He is now fully retired. "I only go to church and to the American Legion."

A few years ago, he was interviewed as a World War II veteran, by "two young ladies for a congressional project. One of them now lives in Hawaii and I think she's responsible for my getting the flag. My friend Dale Lindley, who lives in Alamogordo, delivered it to me. He was my caregiver on the Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. and all the memorials there. He comes over to visit me when he has school breaks. He's a teacher. "

"I feel honored they all did this for me to be remembered with this flag and citation," Harrison said.

He emphasized that all the work he did in the community was done with "a lot of good people. And with my wife of 70 years, I couldn't have done it without her."

Harrison has other framed folded flags hung on his walls that he has received from congressmen. "Those flags flew over the Capitol."

Back to his service with Nimitz, Harrison said "I was a yeoman. "They're worse than dirt, but I was honored to serve under Nimitz. I was in communications during the Battle of Midway. To get this flag from his successor is a great, great honor."

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