Salute to ‘Red’
HANSON — Korea is called the Forgotten War as it was, and remains, a stalemate paused by a lingering cease-fire that many political and military leaders wanted to put behind them.
But the families and hometowns of the Korean War’s wounded and fallen have never forgotten, even when honors were delayed.
On Saturday, Sept. 26 Hanson saluted Army Sgt. James F. “Red” Harrington, who was killed in Korea on April 8, 1951.
“It was very moving, also it’s been a long time coming,” his sister, Jean Croghan, said after the ceremony dedicating a memorial corner at the Hancock Street ball field where her four brothers used to play baseball. “The whole family feels terrific. We’re pleased with the turnout and support we’ve received.”
Selectmen Chairman Bruce Young said it was a day for which Hanson could be proud.
“It’s a nice hometown, small town event where people get together and get united for an effort to honor somebody who gave his life in defense of freedom for others,” Young said.
Like many who served in Korea, Sgt. Harrington was a veteran of military service, having joined the Army in 1946 and served two years before going on reserve status.
During his junior year at Boston College in 1950, he was recalled to active duty and sent to Korea in January 1951.
“I can’t say he was a diamond in the rough — he was a diamond,” Croghan said, noting he had always been a fine example for his younger siblings, especially his younger brothers. “We still miss him.”
Saturday’s program, held at 10 a.m. on the ball field, began with bagpiper Don Teague playing a selection of service hymns and other selections, including “Scotland the Brave,” before Veterans’ Services Director Bob Arsenault began the ceremony by introducing Croghan and her surviving brother and sisters, Jack Harrington, Rose Dunlea and Mary Tucker.
Members of the Tech. Sgt. Elmer R. Hammond American Legion Post 226 Honor Guard also took part in the ceremony along with Young and fellow Selectmen Bill Scott, James McGahan and Kenny Mitchell.
“I’d like to thank everybody for turning out this morning,” Arsenault said. “It’s a beautiful day — Red’s looking down upon us. You can’t ask for much better weather.”
Arsenault outlined the all-too-brief story of Sgt. Harrington’s service in Korea, where he had volunteered for the mission of forward observer.
“During Korea, when you were a forward observer, it was a very dangerous position,” he said. “You were out in the front lines in the hills and the mountains of Korea and the North Koreans would try to triangulate on your position. A lot of these forward observers, unfortunately, did not make it home.”
Jack Harrington spoke for the family during the emotional program, quipping that he had prepared a 10-page speech about his big brother.
“Red, you’d be proud,” he began, speaking in front of a silhouetted figure of a soldier mourning a fallen comrade. “I feel very privileged and honored to be asked to speak about my brother, James.”
He noted a tragic family lineage of sacrifice for country — his maternal great uncle, Sgt. James F. Healy, was killed in WWI; a cousin, Sgt. James F. Healy was killed in WWII and his brother, James F. Harrington, was killed in Korea. His mother asked her remaining children not to name their sons James F., he said before introducing his oldest son, James F. Harrington, to applause.
“They say the good die young — I’ll live to be 120,” Harrington said. “But James was surely good. He was good looking, good at football, good at basketball, good at baseball, good at fishing, good at studying. He was good to his mother and father, his sisters and his brothers.
“He was a good soldier,” he continued. “He was a gentleman — a man of good breeding and refined manners.”
Harrington said the letters in Red’s nickname stood for regular (conforming, straight), educated (cultivated, disciplined) and dependable.
He quoted a letter the family had received from a Jesuit chemistry professor of Red’s from Boston College: “Jim was a good, humble, enthusiastic boy who was a joy to a teacher. I’m sure that he would have developed into a good chemist. … He was unspoiled by the world and I think of him as a boy loved by God and carried to heaven lest he should be contaminated by the world.”
Arsenault read citations in honor of the dedication from the General Court of the Commonwealth and Gov. Charlie Baker before presenting an American flag in a shadowbox to the Harrington family on behalf of the president, governor and citizens of Hanson. He thanked all those who helped make the ceremony possible, including Highway Surveyor Bob Brown and his crews, selectmen, Sons of the American Legion, Mike Means and Bob Hayes.
The Rev. Kwang H. Lee, vicar of St. Joseph the Worker Church offered the closing prayer, followed by Teague’s playing of “Amazing Grace” and Jack Harrington leading the crowd in singing “God Bless America.”
Sgt. Harrington’s siblings then threw ceremonial first pitches to four children, symbolic of renewed life for the old ball field.
More photos from the event can be viewed on the Whitman-Hanson Express Facebook page.