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NEWS | May 26, 2023

Air Warrior’s Silver Star Recipient

By Zachary Catron Army

Silver Star recipient Donald Harp has dedicated the past 55 years of his life to service to this country. Now a logistician with Program Deputy Manager Air Warrior, he is one of the last remaining Vietnam War veterans still working for PEO Soldier.

Growing up in small towns throughout the south, Harp found his first permanent home in Odessa, Texas while his family worked in the oil fields. In 1968, after failing an English class in college and having to take his draft physical, Harp decided to just enlist in the Army.

“I thought there was a job being a door gunner,” said Harp. “I saw a commercial on TV with these guys shooting looking all clean and I thought I can do that I don’t have to walk through the woods.”

After taking a series of tests with the recruiter and being sent on a plane for the first time to Dallas, Texas for more evaluations, Harp recalled his recruiter telling him “Congratulations you are going to flight school.”

The day of graduation from basic training Harp was excited to be going home for his 10 days of leave but was immediately put on a bus and sent to flight schools at Fort Wolters, Texas, which at the time was home to the Army Primary Aviator Flight School. He graduated with his wings and orders to Vietnam in hand.

Over his 12 months in Vietnam, Harp accumulated 1,242 hours of combat flying time as a scout and command and control pilot with 1st Air Calvary Division.

“I started to become a scout pilot around the middle of June, and by 10 July I was the senior scout lead, had a Silver Star, and a had been shot down about four times.”

Harp was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action on July 10, 1969, for landing his helicopter while under heavy machine gun fire from the enemy and rescuing the pilot of a downed aircraft.

After leaving Vietnam in 1970, Harp spent much of his career as a flight instructor.

“I retired in 1989 with 21 years, and I got called back to active duty in 1990 for the first Gulf War and was sent to Fort Rucker. I was an instructor pilot for the CH-47 until I retired again in 1995.”

For the past 22 years, Harp has been an integral part of developing new gear to better protect soldiers and pilots. He has firsthand stories of meeting people whose lives were saved from using the Electronic Data Manager (EDM) that he taught them how to operate. Taking pride in what he does, Harp does not intend to stop working anytime soon.

“I don’t know what I would do in the morning if I didn’t come in and try to help the soldiers in the field life.”

Harps half a century of experience brings indispensable knowledge to the PEO Soldier and Air Warrior team, that is on the leading edge of providing the best possible equipment to soldiers.

“I never got a new flight suit, I never had a survival radio that worked, I had good helmet but that because I brought that with me but didn’t have a spare. I was very happy to start working at Air Warrior and see how the acquisition process works, because we have put some good stuff in the field and made sure everyone had it. That to me is one of the best things.”