Brigadier General Gary G. Harber served his beloved America for 42 years before he retired from the Army in 1997, but his service didn’t end there. Now, Harber serves fellow veterans who are currently receiving hospice care.

Harber keeps a lengthy running list of all the hospice patients he has ever worked with since he started volunteering with Kindred Hospice 4 years ago. He fondly remembers a 62-year-old female Army Nurse and her Army spouse whom he served as a Bereavement Volunteer.

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“She was a wife, mother, and Army nurse,” Harber said. “And her beauty shone through, even though the lower half of her face was covered with a large bandage due to an injury from a medical procedure. She was very particular who she allowed in her home, was isolated, and had a difficult time speaking.”

Harber visited the former Army nurse with fellow veteran volunteer, Welby Smith. Before each visit concluded, Smith would ask the woman if they could pray together.  

“Her huge smile was evident as she enthusiastically responded ‘yes.’ These moments remain sacred in my mind, and as we prayed I pictured her in her pristine white nurse’s uniform, helping the wounded soldiers,” Harber said. “Later, when I asked her about her military history, she shared she hadn’t received any medals and ribbons, and none were listed on her discharge papers.”

Harber researched awards she was authorized for, and then he looked through his own medals and ribbons for awards she could have received. Harber and Smith presented her with an award and framed certificate on the next visit in appreciation for her service.

“My, how the tears flowed that day! I can still feel the warmth that was in the room,” Harber said. “After her death, we still support her spouse whom we take to brunch and call regularly. Welby and I will never forget this patient and her family, who they are and what they did, and we want to continue to honor them.”

Those who know Harber find him to be a spiritual role model.

“Gary is a wonderful Christian man who serves God and others – a true American hero,” Smith said. “He loves and serves veteran hospice patients, and it is an honor to visit them with him.”

His family echoes Smith’s sentiment. Harber’s second-born daughter, Lauren, said her father has always been a great spiritual role-model and his love of language has encouraged family members to become multilingual. Harber’s other daughter, Cathleen, recalled a memory from when she was in second grade and her classmates rushed out to see her dad’s UH-1 “Huey” helicopter land on the school grounds.

Harber joined the Tennessee Army National Guard prior to starting college at Tennessee Tech University. He is a Master Army Aviator, with more than 15,000 hours in military and civilian fixed and rotary wing aircraft.  

He oversaw operations in America, Europe, and Central America. He was assigned to the Pentagon on numerous occasions, including as Chief, Construction Branch, Army Installations Division, and also served on the Chief of Engineers General Officer’s Executive Council.  He is also a member of the Daedalians (Military Pilot Organization, Military Officers Association) and is a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) civilian flight training instructor.

Harber suffered a helicopter crash in the 1960s that left him seriously injured, but that never impacted his drive to give back to current and past soldiers and their families.

“He has the strength of a warrior and the talent of an artist,” daughter Cathleen said.

We thank General Harber for his service to our country and as a hospice volunteer. Learn more about becoming hospice volunteer, or fill out an application now.

By Katherine McLamore