Town says good-bye to Marine Capt. Jennifer Harris

February 26th, 2007  

Topic: Town says good-bye to Marine Capt. Jennifer Harris

Town says good-bye to Marine Capt. Jennifer Harris
By George Derringer/
Monday, February 19, 2007 - Updated: 05:10 PM EST

Capt. Jennifer Jean Harris, USMC, age 28 and a helicopter pilot, of Swampscott was “a woman of excellence,” said her roommate at the U.S. Naval Academy, Navy Lt. Rosie Goscinski.

“It took two sets of parents, loving grandparents and the entire town of Swampscott to raise a kid like you,” Harris’ cousin, Christina Ahearn [told] Harris in remarks directed to her during her funeral Monday at St. John the Evangelist Church. “You wear a different set of wings now.”

And Harris “has an internal light, burning bright, that was not going to settle for halfway measures,” said Marine Col Michael Hudson, her commanding officer during her second tour of Iraq in 2005 and one who mourns her death Feb. 7 when what are called “insurgents” fired on the helicopter Harris was piloting on a casualty rescue mission in Iraq.

For the second time in five months, Swampscott mourned again Monday as family, friends, classmates and ordinary citizens said good-bye to the young Marine woman, who was engaged to be married to another Marine, Maj. Christopher Aaby.

Ahearn addressed her remarks directly to Capt. Harris.

“You were always about others but today is about you,” Ahearn said during the Mass, recalling a day when Harris was unable to find her airline ticket but still “was able to fly a multi-million dollar aircraft.”

Harris “worked more than any one person could because halfway was never acceptable,” Ahearn said, reciting other relatives’ remembrances of the 1996 Swampscott High School graduate as “a motivator” and “leader.”

“Jenn, there are so many wonderful things I want to say about you,” Ahearn continued.“We (always) knew you were special. We miss you and it hurts. We love you, Jennifer.”

Goscinski remembered how her roommate during their common first year at Annapolis “always talked about her home in a little town called Swampscott” and said she adopted Harris as her “big sister,” in part because Harris knew how to be “a mother hen of sorts” without causing offense.

“Jenn genuinely cared about people,” Goscinski continued. “And she could do it all, with style and class.”

But Harris wanted to be a pilot and Goscinski remembers the day she learned that she had been accepted into aviation in the Marine Corps.

“The first thing she did was offer me all of her Navy dress uniforms because she wouldn’t need them and I wouldn’t have to spend the money to buy them,” Goscinski said. “She was the epitome of today’s leader… but never rested on the laurels of her past accomplishments.”

Most of all, Goscinski said, “She made me want to become great. As Jesus said there is no greater love than laying down one’s life for others, Capt. Harris gave her life for God, country and her fellow Americans.

“I love you, Jennifer Harris. May the Lord bless and keep you.”

Commanding officer knew

Hudson, who was the executive officer for Harris’ first deployment to Iraq and commanding officer for her second, recalled that he was looking for the best people during that first tour and found one in Jennifer Harris.

“I was looking for the strengths and weaknesses of the Purple Foxes,” Hudson said, referring to HMM-364, known as the “Purple Foxes,” a famous Marine squadron with a long history. Her unit specialized in evacuation of casualties and had to act quickly, Hudson said, to rescue American military personnel who were within an hour of dying.

Hudson said he saw Harris’ “light burning bright” and nominated her for training as a weapons and tactics instructor.

“She came back as an accomplished professional,” Hudson told the packed church sanctuary, then explained how she and her colleagues waited to make 100-year sprints to their Sea Knight helicopters and take off within five minutes. In fact, he said, Harris’ unit had saved a life the very day she was killed.

“She would fly in the dark, in bad weather, Jennifer Harris would fly,” Hudson said. “She would fly so others could live.”

The Most Rev. Francis Irwin, auxiliary bishop in the Boston Archdiocese for the North Region, spoke briefly on behalf of Archbishop Sean O’Malley, who had attended visiting hours Sunday evening at the funeral home.

He recalled the words of the prophet Micah: “What does the Lord require of you? Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

“And that is what we heard about Jennifer, over and over, from her fellow Marines, her classmates, her family and from many who knew and loved her,” the bishop said.

The Rev. Clyde Chetwynde, pastor of St. John’s (Harris’ home parish), said the huge crowd attended because “in some way, Jennifer Harris had an effect on our lives.” Referring to the opening paragraphs of Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” in the fifth chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew, Chetwynde called the Beatitudes “the words by which Jesus asked you and you and you and me to live our lives every minute.”

He said the land is dotted by monuments in memory of those who tried to live by those words, “who gave to God and their nation, the very best of themselves.” And they include Jennifer Harris, he said, recalling her service in the My Brother’s Table soup kitchen, at Salem Hospital and at Swampscott High School organizations.

“This is a better town because of her presence here,” he said. “It takes time to accept our loss. But our letting go is accepting that Jennifer is going to the kingdom.”

The Rev. Dean Pedersen, pastor of First Church, Congregational, and also a captain in the U.S. Naval Reserve, also offered a prayer, mentioning relatives by name, the Marines, all who fly and all Purple Foxes.

February 26th, 2007  

Topic: Town may name intersection for Jennifer Harris

Town may name intersection for Jennifer Harris
By Paul Leighton, Staff writer
Salem News
Published: February 24, 2007 12:00 am

SWAMPSCOTT - More than 1,000 people turned out to honor Jennifer Harris at her funeral on Monday, but that won't be the last of the tributes to the town's fallen Marine.

Veterans' agent Jim Schultz plans to ask selectmen next week to name an intersection in memory of the 28-year-old captain and helicopter pilot.

Schultz said he will file a request next week to dedicate the intersection of Essex Street and Stetson Avenue in memory of Harris, who died when her helicopter was shot down in Iraq on Feb. 7.

The intersection is already scheduled to undergo $250,000 in renovations, including the construction of a traffic island where a memorial to Harris could be located.

"That's one of the reasons I picked that intersection," Schultz said.

If selectmen approve, the intersection will become the second in the town of 15,000 to be named after a Swampscott native killed in Iraq. In November, the town dedicated the intersection of Essex and Burrill streets in memory of Army Spc. Jared Raymond, who was driving a tank that was blown up by an improvised explosive device on Sept. 19.

"If this goes through," Schultz said, "Jared would be flanking one side of the new high school, and Jennifer would be flanking the other end."

Schultz said the town would place a bronze marker on the island similar to one used to honor Raymond and other veterans around town. Two anonymous donors paid the $2,500 cost of the marker for Raymond, Schultz said. He's hoping others will step up to help pay for the Harris memorial - "even if we get a bunch of small donations," Schultz said.

Schultz, a Swampscott police detective and retired Marine, said veterans have sold about 100 decals in memory of Harris, with a suggested donation of $10 apiece. The money is being turned over to a scholarship fund in Harris' name.

If the town OKs the plan for the intersection, Schultz said he would like to hold the dedication ceremony on Memorial Day.

Town Administrator Andrew Maylor said he foresees no problems with naming an intersection after Harris.

"If Jim Schultz says to me, 'This is what the family desires,' there would be every expectation that myself and the Board of Selectmen would be in favor of it," Maylor said.

Harris' name has already been memorialized by another group. The Swampscott-based Marine Corps League Detachment 871 has changed its named to the Capt. Jennifer Harris Marine Corps League.

John Sacherski, commander of Swampscott VFW Post 1240, said league members voted unanimously to change the name in a meeting on Monday night after Harris' funeral. The league has been in existence for about 15 years. About 50 to 75 former Marines on the North Shore are members, Sacherski said.

"A lot of members don't like changing names, but they did it in a heartbeat," he said.

"The outpouring (for Harris) has been outstanding," Sacherski said. "The community has stepped up to the plate on two occasions. We're a very tight-knit group."
February 26th, 2007  
"Aunt" Linda Macone Talks About her Niece 1st Lt Jen Harris

For a little something about Jen and me...............Jen is the daughter I never had! I have three sons, the oldest of whom is an Army (ouch!) Kiowa helicopter pilot. Jen's mom has Multiple Sclerosis and it is very difficult for her to get I happily was able to share more in Jen's life than the typical aunt. I had the fun of shopping for prom dresses, USNA Ring Dance, visiting the Naval Academy with my video camera always in tow so the whole family could share the experiences "on TV". Thanks to the wonderful world of the internet, I have been able to share everything that Jen has done with her family. We have a scapbook of pictures and articles, all of her e-mails and even the audio interview with Greg Jarrett on a cd to give to her when she returns.

Jen has always been an extremely hard worker. She puts 100% into everything she does. She is also very compassionate. She really cares about people and I am sure that the Purple Foxes are benefiting from that quality. She is a good listener and I am sure that she has probably filled the void felt by some of her Marines, leaving their Moms or sisters or best friends to go off to war. I am sooooooooooo proud of her..........and all of our men and women in the military!

Foxy Lady Linda Macone Proud Aunt!

See Jen's Photo Album

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