17 August 2011

Sgt Rock & His Faux Commandos

Jeff “Rock” Harris refuses to display his medals and honors in his Kinston home

He tries to keep the awards — three Purple Hearts, two Silver Stars, a Bronze Star, 23 Army Commendation Medals, 31 Army Achievement Medals, six Overseas Service ribbons for combat, an award from the emperor of Saudi Arabia, along with several dozen others, he acquired during his time as a U.S. Army Ranger — packed away. However, those around him refuse to let him forget how important his time in the military was.

Harris — an executive security specialist at Down East Protection Systems in Kinston, personal trainer, self-defense instructor and a bodybuilding judge — doesn’t want credit for the bravery and valor he exhibited serving his country.

In fact, he didn’t even want to have any part of a big-budget, Hollywood movie that recounted one of his most eventful and memorable days in the Army.


“Black Hawk Down,” based on the Mark Bowden’s book by the same name, was nominated for four Academy Awards, won two and grossed $172,989,651 worldwide after its release in late 2001. The movie, based on true events from Operation Restore Hope, takes place Oct. 3, 1993, when American troops were sent into Bakara Market in Mogadishu, Somalia. Their mission was to capture warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid’s officers to stop his regime from starving the nation’s people.

U.S. Army Rangers and Delta Force soldiers were sent on Black Hawk helicopters and Humvees on a mission expected to only take a couple of hours. They ended up fighting what seemed like the entire city into the next day, losing 19 U.S. soldiers in the process.

Harris, a sniper with the Rangers, came close to being one of the casualties of Mogadishu. Harris found out about the movie when Ridley Scott, co-producer and director, and his production company started hounding him for his account of the bloody day. But he refused to contribute.

“It’s not that I didn’t want to talk about it (but) it’s a sore spot for a lot of us,” Harris said. “It’s not just because we were losing people and the whole horror of it — that was the third time I went to combat, so it wasn’t a surprise for me. It was just the way it happened, what went down. … A lot of guys got out (of the Army) after that who otherwise wouldn’t have.”

Though Scott’s company kept asking for his input, Harris answered every time with a resounding “no.” Scott nonetheless promised the movie would ring true to the day’s events, be more like a documentary — and most importantly — would honor the soldiers lost in Somalia. “I didn’t even care if my name was even mentioned,” he said. “I just wanted to make sure the people who did the most there, those who gave up the most, were shown the most honor.”

Despite receiving several movie passes and an invitation to see a special screening at Fort Bragg, Harris didn’t watch the movie until he could view it on his own time. “I finally watched the movie for first time after it came out on DVD, just so I can take a break if I needed to,” Harris said. “I don’t want to say that I was pleased because it’s not a pleasing thing to watch, but the rendition of it was what (Scott) said. He kept his word about it.”

The timeline of the movie strayed from the day’s actual events, and some character-switching, including his own, stood out, too.

Man down
In a bloody scene in the middle of the movie, a young soldier’s leg is blown off, opening his femoral artery. In pain and bleeding heavily, the young man’s strained face relaxes and he dies. “That would have been me,” Harris said. “I got shot, and cut my femoral artery, but we got out the next morning. I lived, but that wouldn’t have been as good of a story line.”

Though Harris still has both legs, he sustained a scar on his leg after a bullet punctured his shin, traveled up his leg, cut his artery and hit his spine, earning him his third Purple Heart, and almost ending his mobility. “(The bullet is) still in my spine — it’s still in my lower back,” Harris said. “I wasn’t supposed to walk again. I was paralyzed for almost 20 months.”

Medical experts still aren’t completely sure how he overcame his paralysis, but Harris, a member of Grace Fellowship Baptist Church, credits it all to God. “The day I left Walter Reed (Army Medical Center), they said I would have maybe an 8 percent chance (to walk again),” Harris said. “I never accepted that. … I’m a very blessed guy.”

Harris earned his two other Purple Hearts after being shot in Panama trying to capture Manuel Noriega and after being shot again in Desert Storm. “It’s different every time (someone shoots at you),” Harris said. “It’s just as scary every time. You don’t ever get used to it.”

Aim, fire
Harris wasn’t always on the receiving end of the bullet, something that makes him uncomfortable to this day. I have 316 confirmed kills as a sniper, and that’s only in that last three years I was in the Army,” Harris said. “Every one of those horrifies me regularly because they were somebody’s children, somebody’s husband or father.”

He still feels conflicted about what he had to do, but in the end, he knew it was his duty as a sworn soldier.“They’re bad people and they’ve done bad things, but who am I to take that away from them?” he asked. “But it was my job to do. Lives were safer because of that — but it’s never easy.”

Leave no man behind
James Murphy served in the Army as a Ranger with Harris and said he wouldn’t be alive if not for Harris’ heroic actions. Murphy recalled after he and another soldier were hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in Mogadishu, Harris ran to their position and carried both of them a half-mile away “not knowing if we were alive or not.” He drove them to safety in a burning vehicle and returned to continue to fight.

“If you know him, you are privileged,” Murphy said. “If you served with him, you were in the presence of a true American patriot. If he is your friend, you should be honored. He gives hope to humanity that there are still decent, amazing people all around you.”

Just a regular guy
Harris said despite everything he has seen and the blessings he has received, he considers himself a down-to-earth person. “I’m just as normal, laid back a person as there is. I’ve just had extraordinary experiences,” he said. “I’ve got a great wife (Amanda), and I’m alive. I’m healthy, and probably much more healthy than I should be at 46.”

Harris is especially lucky after having several medical scares, including having prostate cancer four times in the past six years and a brain tumor. Harris, who is in remission from cancer, said he doesn’t mind talking about his past illnesses, but he doesn’t publicize it because of the way people treat him after finding out.

“They look at you like you’re already dead. … My overall personality is doing for other people rather than myself,” Harris said. “That’s part of my military (background). That’s the thing that it teaches you. You don’t want to be a hero, you don’t want to get credit all the time. A lot of people know me, and a lot of people know where I come from, but a lot of people don’t know my whole story, because I don’t advertise that.”

Say thanks
Harris said he takes every opportunity to thank those who have ever donned a uniform, from friends and veterans Jerry Core of Kinston, Klebear Northrup and James Anthony to Joseph Seabright, a coworker of Harris’ who is deploying next week. “I don’t pass a soldier without saying ‘thank you,’ ” he said. “I don’t tell them who I am. I just tell him ‘thank you.’ ”

Every military holiday, Harris remembers and recognizes the soldiers who fought by his side, especially the 64 in his units who lost their lives. “I will always, as long as I’m able to, recognize those guys first,” he said. “I don’t have problems talking about the stuff I’ve experienced. I think it’s good therapy for me.”

Harris said thanking a soldier and showing him or her support is a simple gesture that goes a long way. “It’s unbelievably important … just to go say thank you,” he said. “Put yourself in their position. Just a ‘thank you’ is tremendous.”

Though he has been through much in his 46 years, he has kept his faith and wouldn’t take any of his experiences back for the world. “I’m thankful everyday I went through it,” Harris said. “As hard as it was, I would have stayed in for 30 years. That was my niche, what I was supposed to be doing … where I’m at, the direction I’m in today is because of somebody else’s plan.”

By Jane Moon - Kinston Free Press

The unauthorized use of military insignia by fashion designers and retailers pales in comparison to people who fabricate military records. This incredible story ran the Sunday before July 4th in Kinston, NC and was picked up by the Fayetteville Observer. With Fayetteville being home to Ft Bragg, the 82nd Airborne Division, Special Forces and Delta , you can guess what happened.

Sgt. Rock's fraud was outed in a fascinating on line investigation seen here and here. Actually, I think Rock would find life in New York City most suitable for his character -- what little he has.

Yesterday, M. Lane, a man over flowing with character, commented on a ersatz military duffle bag, "...I could never carry something like this unless I had earned it." In an upside down world, the upside down message is, "Fake It 'til You Make It' and except for the real nut cases out there, it comes down to how you see yourself each morning when you shave. I'm just guessing, but I reckon Sgt. 'Rock' is working on a full beard.


Brohammas said...

I have invested many dollars in buying club ties of organizations I never belonged to, rep ties of schools I never attended, tartans of families I'm not related too, and in as many ways as possible portraying a manufactured image that implies success to others.
I buy cars I cannot afford, pay unreasonable rent and mortgages in the "right" zip codes, and blog about how cool I am.
I vote for an ideology and ignore higher ideals, I know I am always right and have no time to research my opinions.

signed- America

P.S. I don't appreciate you making fun of beards, my uncle has one.

Anonymous said...

I hope that Jeff Harris and all the other women and men who have served us know that I thank God each and every day for them and for their service. My combat boots, fatigues and duffel bag were all put away the day I got my DD-214. I keep my dog tags discreetly set back on a book case as a reminder that somewhere in this world, another American GI is taking good care of my family and me. Again...thank God for them....let's not commercialize and trivialize their service.

Unclelooney said...

Jeez, that's embarrasing.
Was this guy ever a soldier?
Is it a case of his stories starting small and the getting wilder and wilder?

Unclelooney said...

So he was airborne at least. There was a controversy around for awhile when our Guv, Jesse Ventura talked about hunting man and being a SEAL. He was a UDT man to be sure but never saw any action and spent all of his time in the Philipines.

Anonymous said...

Rock is a moron and will be lucky to emrge from all this with his teeth intact...that said, his advice to thank current service members is worth following. If you're flying through Hartsfield in the ATL, say thank you to those young men and women.

Regarding wearing unearned military garb: I agree this should probably be a no-no...but some people sport this stuff as kind of a tribute or demonstration of patriotism. Misguided? Maybe, but there are worse crimes.

Like spending $250 of a fake army duffle bag.


Oyster Guy said...

The story confused me from the start. For this guy to claim he was the femoral artery injury in Blackhawk Down, he could not have even read the book let alone been there...

notanymore said...

The only military stuff I own is stuff I was issued as a midshipman. I do often wear my Navy sweatshirt. The Navy took almost everything back they issued (my duffle included) when I got out, but they sure as heck didn't want my PT gear back. Not exactly like it could be reissued!

notanymore said...

Hmm, that last comment should have gone to the one on the duffle.

As far as Jeff Harris, as far as I understand, he served well and honorably in Germany. I don't understand the urge to lie. Be proud of what you did, no matter how "small," and everyone else will be too.

NCJack said...

Ridiculous that stories like this aren't given some minimal checking. It's not like he claimed to help start the local garden club, or was first in line for "Star Wars", or some other "who cares" BS.

lagunie said...

Maybe he just forgot to take him meds.

NCJack said...

I will say in some very slight defense of Jane Moon that this story is so incredible that she must have thought "he can't be making this up, it's too easy to check, and nobody would tell a reporter that kind of whopper".

Jeremiah said...

I raised my brow at 'two silver stars' and realized 'bullshit' at 23 ARCOMS. Let's see, ah, yes, that was in the first sentence. Special ops brings in more wannabes than anything I can think of....

JM: A 2/75. RLTW.

tintin said...

Bro- Well said, and I like beards but, I don't see how he can look at himself in the mirror.

Anon- Not sure that was what I was after.

unclelooney- It's confusing but it appears he was a 13B or Artillery, was assigned to Germany and made E-4 corporal his 1st enlistment.

There's some conflict here but it looks like he re-upped and was made hard stripe buck sgt (E-5) and picked up a secondary MOS of NBC (Nuclear, Biological warfare - always odd people in my travels).

His DD214 was a phony but I assume his records have been requested under the Freedom of Information act. By the way, has anyone seen my Medal of Honor and HALO wings? I can't find 'em anywhere.

aNON 13:51- Amazingly this goes on a lot. My father sent me the book, Stolen Valor and even Brian Dennehy lied about fighting in Vietnam (Peace time Marine '59-63). It strikes me odd anyone would do this but...has anyone seen my Combat Infantry Badge?

Oyster Guy- That was Jamie Smith who died from a severed femoral. Harris is saying that was him and that he survived but Ridley Scott, for dramatic purposes, had the ranger die. Harris goes on to say that he refused to cooperate with the making of the film and that amazingly he survived his wound thanks to his faith in Jesus.

Kionon- Were you commissioned in the navy? I can't understand why they'd take back a duffel bag. Geez.

Most of the field equipment I was issued, sleeping bag, Alice rucksack, LBE, etc was turned back in but the duffel had my name stenciled on it.

NC Jack- Yeah, you hit on it big time. Reporter is 22 and fresh outta college. She had no idea how full of shit this guy was. Her editor, who was in the military, was outta town when the story ran.

By the way, do you know where I can order a Croix de Guerre (with Palm)? I lost it the last time I wore white tie at the White House. I was seated next to Christiane Amanpour and I think it fell off when she was rubbing my thigh under the table and asking me about my three silver stars.

NCJack said...

Tintin, my Legion unit will be in Paris within the next fornight, and after I pleasure Carla Bruni I'll get her to make sure Nick sends you a replacement...wait a minute, Christiane's cheating on me?!!

tintin said...

Jeremiah- The ARCOM count is pretty good and so are his kills as a sniper.

I had to forgo sniper school when I was selected as the youngest member of Delta. We were celebrating at the Green Beret Sport Parachute Club when my 1st Sgt choked on a Dorito chip. Fortunately for him I was there with the hiemlich maneuver, everybody else had already passed out, and was awarded the Soldier's Medal for saving his life.

Top's been trying to give me some of that money he made off a TV show, I think it was on CBS, ever since. Instead, I wrote a script for him as a favor. Little did I know I would win an Emmy. That just goes to show you how important faith is and what a little positive thinking can do for you. RLTW

tintin said...

NC Jack- There's a wild little gambling club in the 16th you gotta check out. Last time I was there I broke the house playing Chemin de Fer. Wonderful people but I left a Zippo on the table that was given to me by David Hackworth. He carried it through all his tours in Vietnam and told me it was his good luck charm. Which I don't doubt 'cause the next day he...Well, you don't wanna know. Anyway, will you look around for it?

BigDaddyMan said...

He had me going until the part about 300-plus kills as a sniper.
How long 'till some d-bag is in the news saying he double tapped Osama Bin Laden?

Anonymous said...

The guy looks like a gay hair dresser .... from Ohio

It's interesting that Rock's friend, whose comment was published, was named 'Murphy'.

I pray 'Murphy' soon turns up again in his life - Perhaps in relation to his rectal cancer.

Of his 316 sniper kills he says “Every one of those horrifies me regularly because they were somebody’s children, somebody’s husband or father.”

Really? I would've danced on the mother$#@&%*s graves or not become a sniper in the first place.

gentleman mac said...

tintin, can you explain the process of earning the CIB? I know one has to be in combat, but what are the particulars of earning it?

p.s. Thanks to all you soldiers!

Jeremiah said...

Now wait just a minute. My real name is Murphy so let's not take this too far!

BTW... No shit, there I was alert: have I told you the story about playing Spades in the Ft. Sherman NCO club (back when we still held the Canal Zone) and ultimately it turned into a big round-table bullshit session between a bunch of Marines and we Rangers? There was, of course, a big communal dip cup (in my mind's eye it was a beer pitcher but that would be just tooo good) in the middle of the table and at one point this young jarhead says, "Tough? You want tough? I'll show you tough..." and he chugged it. He was right: We weren't tough enough to be Marines...

notanymore said...

Tintin, I did not commission, no. Lots of history behind that, but what you need to know is that it was the best decision for both myself and the Navy at the time, and it was not in any way disciplinary. It makes sense they'd take everything back.

My commissioning packet has been sitting in Millington, Tennessee at CRUITCOM for three years now with an endorsement from an O-10, three O-5s, two O-3s, and an O-2 as well previous employers, college professors, etc etc. Just isn't room for me because of the recession and budget cuts, but I've been told I am more than welcome back- if they can ever convene a darn board (they've canceled on me three times already!). I have a lot of support in the officer corps.

I'm currently doing my MA in Government and earning a 4.0, my career is teaching.

Jeff P. said...

In 1989 I had just gotten out of the Army (1st PLT, C Co, 1st Bn, 9th Inf Regt, 7th ID Light) and went to a party at my cousins apartment. There was this 80's hair band Bon Jovi look alike dude wearing a torn jean jacket with a set of jump wings pinned upside down on the collar. As one who had earned his airborne parachutist badge a few years earlier I approached him and asked when he went to jump school and how many jumps he had. He asked me what I was talking about, I stepped in his face and pawed his wings repeating my question a bit more assertively. He had no clue was I was talking about and started looking around quickly. Decision time... pop him in the face right there or bring it outside and have a good old fashioned street beat... I did neither, I told him I was just messing with him and he needed to hook me up with one of the trampy little music video wanna-be chicks drinking liberally from the Coors Light 1/4 keg - mission accomplished(!) He turned out be an OK guy, just had no clue unlike this Jeff Harris scumbag that needs to move to North Korea. Oh and, Airborne!

tintin said...

Big Daddy- Funny you mention that:

Anon- I was wondering about James Murphy. Nothing has been said about him in the forums.

Mac- The CIB was created in WWII to distinguish infantry, and it's high mortality rate, from the other branches. The quick answer is to serve in a combat zone under hostile fire for a minimum of 30 days. However, like many things in the army, it gets very complicated:


Jeremiah- Yeah, you let 'em go when they do that.

Kionon- Did you say an O-10?

Jeff P. You always were a crafty SOB. I think you hit on something I've given some thought to and have discussed with designer Grahame Fowler. That is, the people who wear military insignia/awards and the people who design with military insignia/awards, have no understanding of what they're using. Fowler reckons this started about 15 years ago. Before that, designers knew the origins of what they were stealing probably because they had to. The images they were using usually came from books on military insignia. With the internet, all you need do is a google image search, copy the image and add it to your design archives. I'm still waiting for the day - and it's coming - when a company turns out Nazi SS insignia on a polo shirt without knowing it. Wait a minute. I think it already happened with the skull and crossbones.

Jeff said...

But TinTin you are a liberal- you should support the granting/taking of the unearned!

tintin said...

"...granting/taking of the unearned!" That is not how I define my liberalism, captain.

notanymore said...

Yep. I said an O-10. A four star Admiral, surface warfare officer. The others are a mix of SWO, pilot, and intel.

tintin said...

Kionon- Most impressive. Can I ask if you graduated from the Naval Academy?

Wallace Stroby said...

Perfect storm here: Small-town paper, young inexperienced reporter, holiday weekend, desire for a patriotic July 4 story, editor away, lack of immediate access to military records and a source spinning such a massive web of BS (complete with fake documents) that it seems unlikely he could have made it up. That said, it still should have been flagged by someone there.
There's something missing from this story though. Why painstakingly concoct and document this false history in the first place? And why go public with it to a journalist, knowing it might be checked and debunked? There's a piece missing somewhere.

Anonymous said...

Good follow-up story here:

Jeff P. said...

I'm "Jeff P." not "Jeff ", I don't know who that guy was with the liberalism comment.

notanymore said...

Tintin, I did not, no. I was in NROTC. I applied to the Naval Academy, but was not accepted.

I don't think it was that impressive. I simply approached the Admiral and explained my story, and he agreed after a lengthy (and probing!) interview process, that I would still make an excellent officer and got on board. He's actually been a tireless cheerleader, which given how busy the man is, I sometimes think he has clones.

He may have been impressed by my initiative (or gall!) to ask for help from a flag I didn't personally know, but he hasn't given me any indication either way.

Anon said...

On Facebook, Jeff "Rock" Harris has a fan club. It contains links to various articles, some spoofing, and a link to his service records. There is also some discussion that the Bronze Star Medal in his actual Army records is a fake. Despite what was typed on his DA Form 2-1, the certificate (with hokey name typed in) is for achievement, not for valor.


renotime said...

and I thought guys like "dalton fury" aka thomas greer writing about their time in black ops and violating opsec was bad.

Anonymous said...

Felt recoil