Sixty-two years after Aaron Harcrow Sr. served his last day in the United States Army, the 84-year-old received four medals for his honorable service. The presentation was made at Harcrow’s home in Millport, Alabama, on Aug. 2. For the Korean War veteran, it felt like full circle.
Surrounded by family and friends, Harcrow accepted the medals from Paul Housel, district field director for U.S. Congressman Robert Aderholt’s office in Jasper, Alabama. Aderholt, a Republican, represents that state’s fourth district. He and his staff helped Harcrow get this long-overdue recognition that included the Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal and United Nations Service Medal.
“It felt pretty good,” Harcrow said, understated, when asked about finally holding the medals in his hands. “I sure really appreciate it. Mr. Robert Aderholt was very helpful.”
One challenge to getting the medals the veteran was entitled to was fire. When the Pickens County native filed the initial paperwork, it was only to be informed a fire had years before destroyed the facility where his military records were stored. In time, through the recommendation of an uncle, J.B. Pike, Harcrow appealed to Aderholt’s office, which is experienced in assisting veterans whose medals never caught up with them.
“We’ve done hundreds if not over 1,000, especially World War II and Korean vets,” said Housel, a veteran himself of the U.S. Navy. “It’s very touching in a lot of cases.”
Doughnuts to dog tags
Harcrow looked back, to 1953. “I was working at Hardin’s Bakery right up town in Columbus and got a letter from the government saying I was drafted,” he recounted. “I really and truly was expecting it, and I was ready to go.” He entered service on June 10 that year. He recalls it clearly. “I remember everything I’ve ever done,” he said, his voice firm. “I’ll be 85 in January, and I’ve got a memory like an elephant.”
After training as a Morse code radio operator, Harcrow served 10 months in Korea. He was then transferred to Japan, stationed outside Tokyo for six months as a message center operator. When he came home in 1955 to resume civilian life, little sister Barbara Haycox found her brother, 14 years her senior, all grown up.
“I remember he was like a different person — he seemed so mature; I think the military makes a person mature,” said Haycox of Columbus.
Harcrow went back to work at Hardin’s Bakery for several years before getting “into the ice cream business” with another well-known Columbus institution of the era, Brookshire’s. Later, he worked with Meadow Gold in Pensacola, Florida, where he lived for 18 years. Family, plus a few health issues, brought the father of three back home to Alabama in 1997.
At last week’s presentation, the wheelchair-bound veteran brought out photos and memorabilia from his service days to share with the group gathered.
Haycox remarked, “I just was really glad that he was going to get his medals. Paul told about what each one was and what it was for.” Her elder brother’s eyes, she said, got really big and bright. “He just had a smile on his face. He was happy.”
It was a day Harcrow won’t forget. “I was proud,” he said, “to serve my country.”
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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