Marine veteran: 'The Vietnam War saved my life'

Vet: 'The Vietnam War saved my life'

The few, the proud, the Marines.

At just 20 years old, John Harmon was a member of that elite fighting force.

He fought in the Vietnam War as a machine-gunner from July 1966 to June 1967. 

Harmon says he watched many Marines die before his eyes, but believes that God spared his life for a reason. 

Yvonne Thomas spoke with Harmon about the war that he says saved his life.

John Harmon collects many books about Vietnam, but this veteran doesn't need a history lesson. He's pictured in combat in each of these books.  

"I decided to join the Marine Corps because I wanted to join a well-disciplined outfit and quite frankly, I wanted to be sure that I came back alive," said Harmon.

Harmon says the enemy he feared most was death, as he watched many of his brothers die gruesome deaths.

"A lot of men died right before they were even operated on. There were some nasty wounds," Harmon said.

And death became more real the day he was shot by a sniper. 

"I saw the bullet going through the weeds and it hit my leg. Had I been standing with my foot straight, it would have blown my kneecap," said Harmon.

Even though Harmon earned a Purple Heart, he says he lost himself, carrying memories off the battlefield more than 11,000 miles back home.  

Harmon said, "It really hadn't hit me, the PTSD, until years later. You don't process it all immediately, you just keep going."

But when the burden was too much to bear, Harmon says he turned to his faith. "I'm comfortable with my faith. and with my Lord."

Now Harmon's 72 and ministers to other veterans.

"I would go and say, 'Hi, how are you?' Read to them and pray with them," Harmon said.

Harmon says he doesn't know why God let him to live through the war, "I know that God has a reason. Maybe I haven't fulfilled his purpose yet," but he's using this time to find peace after war with new duty to serve others. 

When Harmon came back from Vietnam, he served at Marine Barracks Guard Company in Washington, D.C. 

He earned a degree in engineering from California State University in 1991. 

Harmon now lives in Warner Robins with his wife of more than 40 years. 

© 2017 WMAZ-TV


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