Mission365's inaugural event honors Air Force veteran, announces civic initiatives

Retired Air Force Maj. John L. Harrison Jr., (center) holds the Mission365 Active Citizenship award. He stands with his daughter Joan Harrison (left) and Todd Bernstein, president of Global Citizen, which is spearheading the Mission365 project.
Retired Air Force Maj. John L. Harrison Jr., (center) holds the Mission365 Active Citizenship award. He stands with his daughter Joan Harrison (left) and Todd Bernstein, president of Global Citizen, which is spearheading the Mission365 project.
Posted: September 13, 2012

On a day of national service and remembrance, Philadelphia civic leaders announced an initiative to boost services by and for military veterans.

Global Citizen's Mission365 project aims to "connect military and civilian service on the home front."

On one side, that mission is helping active service members, families and veterans find opportunities to volunteer. The other side is helping existing volunteer organizations find new ways to aid veterans and their families.

In a nutshell, the project creates a web of military-themed volunteer partnerships.

Mayor Nutter said such partnerships were essential to solving the problems that the government couldn't handle alone.

"We are, all of us, doing our part," he said at a City Hall gathering Tuesday afternoon. "We just need to do it in a more coordinated fashion."

Mission365's first initiatives will include:

Compiling a database of agencies that serve veterans;

Hosting job fairs and career preparation workshops;

Launching military-themed service projects for AmeriCorps volunteers;

Encouraging military-themed service projects on the Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service (Jan. 21).

The Mission365 project also includes a public service award, to be handed out each year on Sept. 11 to "an outstanding veteran who not only served, but came home and made a difference, too," said Todd Bernstein, president of Global Citizen.

The inaugural recipient, retired Air Force Maj. John L. Harrison Jr. of Philadelphia, devoted his life to service in both the military and civilian sectors.

As a Tuskegee Airman, Harrison flew dozens of missions during World War II and the Cold War, earning the Air Force's highest pilot rating. He later helmed the Peace Corps delegation in Swaziland and was appointed regional director of the ACTION national service program.

Harrison, sharply attired in a blue suit jacket with Air Force pins and aviator sunglasses, said he was "honored and grateful to accept this award."

He spoke proudly of his work with the Peace Corps in Swaziland, where he oversaw several hundred American volunteers over five years. When he went to visit schools, he would ask his volunteers to "set aside one hour for me because I want to talk to the children about airplanes and aviation." He scrounged together a blackboard and chalk, some balloons and model planes to illustrate to the concepts to children who had never seen an aircraft before.

A few weeks ago, Harrison said, he got a call from a man who is now a government official in Swaziland. "He had been 7 years of age when I talked to him," he said. "It really made me feel good, that this man, who was a little boy that I had wondered if he was getting my message . . . now he wanted to talk to me."

Mayor Nutter thanked Harrison for his service and for breaking down the color barrier.

"We need to cherish these moments and think about the fighting that you did, far away, to preserve America's freedoms. And upon return to the United States, you often could not enjoy the same treatments that you fought to preserve," he said.

"I would say this to you on any day, but certainly today is not just any day," Nutter said. "It is because of you, and many like you, that I get to do what I do for a living."

Joan Harrison, of Queen Village, said her father has received many awards over the years. But as he approaches 92, "It warms my heart that people still honor him and recognize his service."


Contact Jessica Parks at 215-854-4851 or jparks@philly.com.

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