Lynn Harnden joined the U.S. Army at 18 years old and didn’t walk away from it completely until he was 65 years old. In a career that spanned nearly five decades, the now 78-year-old Harnden fondly recalls his time in the service and is still extremely proud of the time he spent serving his country.
“I grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota,” Harnden said. “I worked and lived hand to mouth, I was pretty poor. And I thought there has got to be something better. So I found out after I got in the National Guard that the Army was a pretty good life. So I opted to become a career soldier and I’m glad I did.”
Being a career serviceman has enabled Harnden to do all kinds of things that he wouldn’t have imagined himself doing as a farm boy in Minnesota. He lived in Germany twice, flew observation routes along the Korean Demilitarized Zone in a Cessna L-19 Bird Dog Airplane. He’s also piloted a Bell UH-1H Helicopter war during two tours in Vietnam and owned a sailboat that he docked in Mission Bay in San Diego.
“(Korea) was my first flying assignment after flight school,” Harnden said. “At that time my commander asked me, ‘How much flying time do you have?’ At that time, all I had was flight school training. And he said, ‘I don’t care about that, how many hours of flying do you really have?’ Which I only had 11 hours of (real flying),” said Harnden. “He didn’t count my flight school training hours, in which we had about 250 hours of. He says, ‘Those wings on your chest, that’s just a license to learn.’”
And learn he did. After that initial conversation with his commander, Harnden soon became a veteran of piloting the skies around Korea.
“In Korea, you had to learn fast, because it was a very, very, very rugged country,” said Harnden. “You could have every variation of weather in a matter of two hours and then come back to having a nice day like you started with.”
Although the Korean DMZ is supposed to be a buffer zone between the Communist North and the Presidential Republic South, flying along the zone was still risky.
“We were close enough to North Korea to get fired upon,” he said. “We wore parachutes all the time when we were on the flight. When I would get ready to go on the flight I would brief my passenger. I’d say, ‘If I tell you to jump, don’t say” what?” because you’ll be talking to yourself.’”
Harnden spent 13 months in Korea on his initial tour there and was thankful that is was uneventful. In his long and decorated career he received 21 Air Medals, a Bronze Star, a Distinguished Flying Cross, two Army Commendations Ribbons, two Reserve Component Awards and several other accommodations. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel after starting off as “Buck” Private.
His love for the military is evident in not only the years he served but in the opportunities it gave him and the opportunities he believes it can provide others.
“I highly recommend it (the military),” said Harnden. “There is lots of opportunity if a person applies themselves, pay attention to detail, and works hard. The possibilities are really good.”
So how does a man sum up his experiences serving his country from the 1950s until almost the next century?
“I enjoyed it,” said Harnden. “I enjoyed it lots. I made lots of friends and I loved living in military communities. It (the Army) taught me how to get along with other people and how to adjust to changing conditions. I enjoyed it the whole time. At times it was hard to take. But, all in all, it was a good time for me.”
Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at email@example.com.