GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) The year is 1941 in the month of December. New York native, Harold Russell, a high school student at the time, had received news about the attack on Pearl Harbor, in Honolulu.
“I think anybody that loved their country, at least back at that time, just wanted to get in and do whatever they could, but I had to wait until my 18th birthday before I could get in,” Harold Russell said.
Eager to enlist, Russell waited impatiently until his he became of age on April 15th, 1945.
Russell said, “I tried to get in when I was 17 but my dad was smarter than me and he was the principal and he knew what an education meant.”
He eventually entered the Navy just a few days later.
“When we got shipped out, World War II ended. The only thing that was left was cleaning up caves and so forth. There were a few snipers around,” he recalled.
Russell was in and out of the military, having served in the Navy, in the Marine Corps and as a Navy Seabee.
He trained in San Diego at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
“When Korea broke out, I went back in immediately,” he said, “I like being in the service. It’s good experience for anyone,” Russell explained. Something our country needs desperately [is] patriotism. I love the country, even with all of its problems and most of that are people. We’re blessed. Anyone that gets a chance to live here. It’s all about freedom and democracy and so forth.”
He was a hospital corpsman third class (HM3): Navy rank in a Marine uniform.
“Regular Marine training that you’re going to do, learning how to take care of them. Patch them up when they get something blown apart,” he said.
After his time in the service, he turned to serving kids in the Greeneville area.
“That’s what God did. If you love children, people and so forth, they kind of help you make you feel better,” he said. “They come up with all kinds of things. They keep you laughing or guessing. Children, they need direction, they need a lot of love.”
He retired in January 2019, after volunteering for 25 years, but occasionally makes weekly visits to the area schools.
The 92-year-old now spends his time at home with his wife of 72 years, telling stories to those who lend an ear.
Russell said, “I wasn’t a hero. I was just one of 13 million others that got in because we loved the country and wanted to help.”
If you know someone who makes our community a better place to live, we want to hear from you! Nominate them to be an ABC Tri-Cities Community Hero! Click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to nominate them.