Veteran of the Week: Rick Harmon was Vietnam HA(L)3 Seawolf

Published 3:30 pm Monday, January 11, 2016

Rick Harmon of Columbiana was a helicopter pilot with HA(L)3 Seawolves, the most decorated squadron in U.S. Navy history. (Contributed)

Rick Harmon of Columbiana was a helicopter pilot with HA(L)3 Seawolves, the most decorated squadron in U.S. Navy history. (Contributed)

By PHOEBE DONALD ROBINSON / Community Columnist

The all-volunteer Helicopter Attack Squadron (Light) 3, nicknamed the Seawolves, was the most decorated Navy squadron in U.S. history commissioned from April 1967-March 1972 during the Vietnam War.

Their missions included search and destroy patrols, reconnaissance, medical evacuations, and SEAL Team insertions and extractions with a primary mission to provide close air support to river patrol boats.

HA(L)3 received six Presidential Unit Citations for extraordinary heroism, six Navy Unit Citations, The Vietnam Civil Action (Honor) with Palm and Vietnam Cross of Gallantry (MUC) Palm flying over 120,000 combat missions. Forty pilots and gunners were killed in action and over 200 wounded in action.

Lt. Richard Borg “Rick” Harmon served with honor with the Seawolves from 1969-1970 after graduating from Utah State and enlisting in the U.S. Navy.

“My father prayed before I left for Vietnam that if I would be obedient to the principles of the gospel, I would come home,” said Harmon of his father’s “Priesthood Blessing.”

“Rick had ‘the hands,’” said Airman Jerry Schmitt of Illinois who served as one of Harmon’s door gunners. “When things got ugly – and they did – he was the guy you wanted to be with. He was fearless, steadfast and committed.”

Harmon is from one of the founding families of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was baptized at age 8 on Sept. 8, 1953, and his family’s life centered around faith and duty.

Fourth great-grandfather Jesse Perce Harmon lived across the street from Joseph Smith who received the vision of God and translated the Book of Mormon.

Great-great grandfather Appleton Milo Harmon personally knew Smith and Brigham Young, drove the wagon of Apostle Herber Kimble, and built the odometer that measured the mileage of the exodus pilgrimage to Salt Lake City, Utah.

Great-grandfather Willis Milton Harmon, grandfather Milton Spilsbury Harmon, and father Richard Lowery Harmon continued in the church.

After Vietnam, the Harmons moved to Columbiana where he was a flight instructor at the Shelby County Airport and raised their six children who all graduated from Shelby County High School.

They are founding members of the LDS Columbiana Ward.