The Gregory J. Harris Military Courtesy Room at Syracuse Hancock Airport
Gregory J. Harris Military Courtesy Room

  About Gregory Harris

Gregory John Harris was born October 1, 1945 and was the sun and the moon to his mom, Catherine (McDonald) Harris Helwig. She was an incredible example of the true love a mother has for her child. He was the eldest of the grandsons and was truly, a fortunate son. He was looked up to by his younger cousins and had a heart that would make anyone proud to say that Greg was part of their life.

Greg, or "Butchie" as his family called him, was born and raised in Fulton, NY, just north of Syracuse. He was the apple of his grandfather’s eye and would spend his weekends and summers on his grandfather’s farm where he learned to hunt and fish and enjoy the outdoors. His cousins considered him their big brother and confidant all rolled up into one. They would all play hide and seek in the hay loft, have green apple wars in the orchard and at night after chores they would all go swimming in the pond and make a camp fire. He taught his cousins campfire songs and ironically, saved a neighbor from drowning in that very pond. Even then, before Vietnam, he was truly their Hero.

In 1963 Greg joined the United States Marine Corps and was trained as a Radio Technician. Normally, radio techs do not go to the front lines, but on 12 June, 1966, just a few short months before his tour was to end, Greg convinced another radioman to let him go on an operation in his place. On that mission, Greg was captured alive and unhurt by two enemy soldiers. A search party was sent out the next morning but no sign of Greg was found.

  Corporal Gregory J. Harris, Marine

Gregory J. Harris, Vietnam So, the family nervously waited until the summer of 1973 when those POWs from Operation Homecoming were released by the Vietnamese government. Unfortunately, Greg was not one of those 591 POWs. Greg’s mom then did something pretty darn impressive. To tell the world about the men that didn’t come home, she walked 450 miles in one month from Buffalo, NY to New York City. When asked why she did this, she simply responded, "If your child were lost in the forest you would not stop the search at the end of twenty-four hours. I can’t look for my boy .. It’s better than staying awake night after night."

Greg’s mom died in 1974 after a battle with cancer, fighting to the very end for the safe return of her beloved son. Surely, he is very proud of his mom and all she did to bring him home. Now, the family of Catherine and Greg have picked up the battle flag that Catherine left after her death. Today, some 39 years later, they are still fighting, still searching (DoD Case #0358), still looking for answers. Until Greg is home, they will not give up. Would you?

Gregory J. Harris, beach


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