MANATEE COUNTY — Larry HarNess is looking for a few good men. And women.
Specifically, he’s looking for veterans.
HarNess, a Navy veteran, is organizing a Wall of Honor in observance of Veterans Day Nov. 11. The wall, a collection of photographs of veterans submitted by the East County community, will be on display from Nov. 3-27 at the Braden River Branch Library. The wall will serve as a way to honor and celebrate all veterans who have sacrificed their lives for the United States.
Photo submissions can be made through Oct. 30 at HarNess’ Edward Jones office, 8205 Nature’s Way, San Marco Plaza. Photos can be of any veteran — retired or current — of any branch of the Armed Forces. Furthermore, they can be of any style — formal military portrait, candid, etc.
All photos will be returned.
“I was at a corporate event in St. Louis recently, and I was talking to another adviser from Kentucky,” HarNess said. “He told me his community was doing something like this, and I thought it would be something great for our community.”
HarNess had helped to organize a similar wall at one of his children’s schools and this year decided to open it to the entire community.
“I want people to know my feelings,” HarNess said. “It’s a way to thank those who have served this country for their sacrifices.”
HarNess is all-too familiar with those sacrifices.
In the Navy, HarNess served with a combat search and rescue team during Operation Desert Storm. He served in the Persian Gulf during Operation Earnest Will and Operation Prime Chance, a largely secret effort to stop Iranian forces from attacking Kuwaiti-owned oil tankers and other gulf shipping.
HarNess received a Commendation Medal and later the Defense Meritorious Service Medal for his role in creating the Navy’s first Strike Rescue team. He was honorably discharged after 14 years of service.
“I remember one Christmas, I had been away for about four months,” HarNess said. “I had a brand new baby at home, but at that time, sometimes it would take several months to get anything (from home). You could go several months without letters, and when you did get them, sometimes they were out of order.
“That Christmas, my mom sent me a package in a toilet paper roll,” he said. “I cut it open, and it was a little Christmas tree. That has stuck with me forever.”
In addition to creating the wall for the community, HarNess also is planning to take photos to send overseas to soldiers currently serving. The gesture, although seemingly small, makes a huge impact to a soldier at sea on an aircraft carrier a half-world away from his or her family.
“People don’t understand the impact — and what you’re giving up (to be in the military),” HarNess said. “And that’s what were trying to do here. We want to show that, as a community as a whole, that we care. That somebody cares. I want to mail this thing en masse to the people over in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Furthermore, HarNess also hopes to honor the families of veterans with this project. When a mother or a father leaves the home, the dynamics completely change, he said. Inevitably, this forces sacrifice on the home front, and he wants to make sure those family members are celebrated for their love and support as well.
“It’s hard when you return,” he said. “If it’s the mother that’s been left at home, she’s learned to be the father, too. And when the father returns, everything just doesn’t instantly go back to the way things were.”
Depending on its success, the wall may become an annual East County event, HarNess said.
Contact Michael Eng at [email protected].
If you have a photo you’d like to include in the memorial wall, please mail or deliver it to:
8205 Nature's Way, Suite 209
San Marco Plaza
Lakewood Ranch, Florida 34202
Attention: Pam Lonas
All photos must be received by Oct. 30. All photos will be returned, so please make sure you have your telephone number and return address included in the envelope. Please write a short note with the veteran’s name, branch of service and dates served. You may also include a brief statement or sentiment about the veteran in the photo.
For more information, contact Larry HarNess, 907-9149 or [email protected].