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U.S. News
Junius Harvey: Served in Afghanistan

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

By Milan Simonich, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Junius Harvey, husband, father and warrior, spent Christmastime in Afghanistan.

A veteran of two wars at age 37, he could not put terrorists out of his mind, even if he wanted to. Harvey, who grew up in Wilkinsburg, has spent more than half his life in the Air Force.

A technical sergeant with the 821st Air Mobility Squadron, he is accustomed to flying into chaotic places and setting the stage for American operations. His job is to help deploy people, supplies and equipment to the hot spots.

He did it during the Persian Gulf War, working from Turkey. After Sept. 11, he drew a 30-day wartime assignment at Bagram Air Base, north of the Afghan capital of Kabul.

As Harvey and other U.S. servicemen carried out their mission, they nabbed a glimmer of national attention for trying to bring American normalcy to the warfront.

They assembled a choir. Then, in a chilly hangar, soldiers fashioned a tree from cardboard and camouflage netting. They trimmed it with flares.

"We brought the spirit of Christmas into the camp," Harvey said, a quote that appeared in newspapers across America.

Harvey said he felt no particular tension entering the Afghan war zone. "We've been prepared. This is what we train for."

Yet the war seemed personal, too. When he is stateside, Harvey is stationed at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey, just 90 miles from New York City, where the Sept. 11 casualties were heaviest.

If the terrorists and their sponsors created fear in America, they also helped galvanize the country, Harvey said. Never in his lifetime has being a servicemen seemed so popular, he said.

Harvey joined the Air Force in 1983 and married his high school sweetheart the next year. He and his wife, Denise, and their two children grew together as a military family. Harvey did five-year tours in both Japan and Turkey.

The Persian Gulf War broke out during his Turkish assignment. Iraq overran the oil-rich sheikdom of Kuwait in August 1990, which led the United States and its allies to attack Iraq.

The war -- contained to January and February 1991 and fought mostly by air -- ended with the United States liberating Kuwait. But Iraq President Saddam Hussein remained in power.

Now, more than 11 years later, President Bush's administration says Saddam is a threat to obtain nuclear weapons and further endanger U.S. allies in the Middle East. Bush last month began trying to build a case for a new war on Iraq.

For servicemen such as Harvey, the possibility of deployment to war always exists. He accepts the risk as part of the life he chose.

Next year will mark his 20th in the service, a threshold that will make him eligible to retire. Right now, that is his plan.

Harvey would still be a young man at 38. He hopes to establish a second career -- working in homeland security at an airport.

Harvey's two forays into conventional war have been brief, but Sept. 11 changed everything. Like most of the country, he realizes now that the threat of terrorism never ends.

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