Freedom Fighters: Carroll Harris - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Freedom Fighters: Carroll Harris

LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) -

"My mother gave me this. This is a mustard seed," says Carroll Harris.

Harris carried the mustard seed for good luck during combat in Korea.

"A Korean service medal with two bronze stars," says Harris.

Also among his memorabilia are two bronze stars for valor and purple heart for a devastating wound on the battlefield.

"I was a radio operator for a forward observer," says Harris.

Harris had joined the army in 1951, at the age of 21. His pay was $30 a month, until his arrival in Korea, when it was raised to $60 as combat pay.

"Until you see a dead American soldier, you haven't experienced a whole lot," says Harris. "The first one you see really hits you."

Most of the casualties from Harris's regiment came from mortar shells, launched by the enemy.

"If you heard it, it's too late...you're a goner," recalls Harris.

Most of the time Harris had been able to avoid the shells, except for the one time when he was too late.

"I was running like a scalded dog to get up that hill." says Harris. "I heard too late that mortar explosion and it knocked me down and hit me in the face and blinded me."

Slivers of metal from the mortar had lodged in both eyes. Fortunately, eye wounds were top priority in the service, so Harris got medical attention within the hour.

"They took me down to the aid station, somebody did, I was blind as a bat," recalls Harris.

Medics did what they could for Harris at the air station.

"They put bandages over my eye and a shot of morphine and they put me on one of those helicopters that you see in Mash," says Harris.

Harris was airlifted to a hospital in Japan.

Harris recalled what he heard when he was first treated for his injuries. "The nurse said, 'Oh my God, look at that, get those filthy clothes off him.'"

The reason for the filthy clothes was that monsoon rains had washed the soldier's extra clothes out to sea.

"I hadn't had a bath in six weeks," remembers Harris.

A series of surgeries over the next few years finally restored his eyesight.

Carroll Harris was discharged from the army in November of 1953, with pride for having served his country.

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