Marine races to aid of community member, battles house fire;
By Sgt. Eric R. Lucero
| | June 27, 2004
RECRUITING STATION COLUMBIA, S.C. --
For one South Carolina Marine, the early-morning, mundane commute turned into an adventure he would never forget.
While making his daily, one-and-a-half hour drive from his home in Lane, S.C. to Recruiting Substation Sumter, S.C., June 10, Cpl. Adam D. Harmon and his older brother, Corey, noticed heavy smoke from the side of the road.
Glancing in the direction of the smoke, the two brothers saw a mobile home engulfed in flames and immediately pulled over to provide assistance.
Stopping his car in front of the burning house, Harmon ran to a nearby home and instructed the homeowner to call 911. The homeowner, it turned out, was retired Sergeant First Class Joseph Miller Jr. and the brother of the gentlemen whose house was on fire.
Making their way back to the burning home, they arrived to find the door locked. Most alarming for the two men was the absence of any human noise from the inside.
Without thinking about his own safety, Harmon quickly kicked open the front door and raced into the smoke-filled, burning home to look for possible victims. Luckily, he found none.
"We didn't know if anyone was inside," said Miller. "I was trying to figure out what to do and he just kicked the door down and ran inside."
Once the trio was sure nobody was inside, they began the seemingly impossible task of battling the raging fire that had already consumed over half the home.
Without proper clothing protection from the fire and no way to filter the poisonous smoke spreading throughout the house, the three men made the choice to save what they could.
With limited access to water, Harmon and his brother resorted to racing 75 yards back and forth between the inferno and Miller's house with buckets of water while other cars sped by on their way to work.
"Buckets of water don't really do a lot," said Miller. "We were more trying to stall a little until the fire trucks got there."
Harmon, however, had other ideas.
The 23-year-old stepped up his intensity and charged at the fire harder than before, this time with the help of a fire engine that had just arrived.
"It's kind of a rural area out here so all the fire departments are pretty much volunteers with older equipment," said the modest, soft-spoken Harmon.
"That didn't stop him from grabbing the hose from the truck and going back at the fire," Miller interjected.
Harmon and the others battled the flames for the next 30 minutes until only smoke remained. Although the fire and smoke destroyed most of the house and few personal items were undamaged, Miller and his brother, Herbert, were thankful nonetheless.
"It's the invaluable things you can't replace that we were able to save thanks to the corporal," said Miller. "Birthday cards from grandparents, photographs of loved ones no longer with us. You can't ever go back and replace things like that. Thanks to this Marine and his aggressive behavior, we don't have to worry about that."
Harmon returned to the site of the blaze a week later and had the chance to sit down and chat with Miller as the two recounted the adventure they now shared.
"I don't really think I can ever say enough about this man," said Miller. "He proved to me that Marines aren't just brave on the battlefield, but in daily life as well. He's welcome in my home anytime."
Miller's gratitude remains unconditional as he searches for a way to repay the young Marine for his courageous actions.
"I wish there was something more I could do for him," he said. "You don't come across young men like that every day. Maybe he'll let me cook him dinner at the very least."
"I think I'm going to have to take him up on that," Harmon said laughing as the two men shook hands. "Scratch that," said the former cook turned infantry. "I know I'm going to take him up on that."