World War II veteran in Harrison, Ark., remembers Battle of the Bulge

Published: Jan. 24, 2020 at 1:33 PM CST
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Perry Harness swears he's not a hero.

"Any red-blooded American teenage boy would do the same thing as I did," the 94-year-old said.

But you should think otherwise.

Harness served in the U.S. Army during World War II and was there for the end of the Battle of the Bulge in eastern Belgium. Seventy-five years later, the memories are still fresh.

"That night before I was wounded, I didn't sleep. I stayed in a foxhole. It snowed all night long. The next morning there was about 10 inches of snow on the ground," he said.

Harness grew up in a big family in northern Arkansas close to Marshall.

His five brothers all went into the service, and he did too after graduating in 1944.

"They needed soldiers so very bad then. If you were warm and breathing you passed. So I passed in high colors," he said.

Harness fought in a few battles and was almost captured, but it was the Battle of the Bulge that ended his career in the service.

"Jan. 25, 1945: That's when a bullet caught my right knee and crushed it. So then they sent me back home through the hospital and so forth. I flew back this time. Went over on a ship, come back on a plane," Harness said.

He came home with a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, a true hero and survivor.

After he was discharged, Harness got married and became a shoe salesman, which wasn’t exactly a perfect fit.

"I wouldn't know a size 14 to a size 6," he said.

But he eventually found his footing.

The store that became Harness Boots and Shoes is still standing.

"Over 70 years still in the shoe business. All those 70 years were on the public square in beautiful downtown Harrison," he said.

Now he's living out his years in Harrison and is ready to celebrate another major milestone on February 13 with his children and grandchildren.

“I'll reach that good ol' 95 years old," he said.

It’s a long life Harness is happy to have lived, giving a true hero plenty of time to thank the men and women he views as worthy of praise.

"When you see an old vet or uniform, fireman, police, tell them you appreciate their service. That's just like ringing a bell," he said.

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