November 6, 1978 to February 7, 2007
Captain Jennifer J. Harris graduated from Swampscott High School in 1996 and from the United States Naval Academy in 2000. Upon graduation from the Naval Academy, Captain Harris was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps, graduated from The Basic School in Quantico, Virginia, and earned her Wings of Gold on September 13, 2002. She was then assigned to Marine Medium Helicopter Training (HMMT) Squadron 164 in Camp Pendleton, CA where she learned to fly the CH-46 Sea Knight Helicopter. Upon completing her training, Captain Harris was assigned to the Purple Foxes of HMM-364 and immediately deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom. HMM-364 is a legendary squadron known since the Vietnam War for repeatedly answering the call of duty flying in and out of combat areas where no other helicopter squadron would go because of the danger. During her time in the HMM-364, she attended The Weapons and Tactics Instructor’s Course (WTI), the Marine equivalent to Top Gun training. Captain Harris was the first female pilot in the Purple Foxes Squadron.
Jennifer was a sailing enthusiast who enjoyed sailing the Atlantic Ocean from both her hometown of Swampscott and her college town of Annapolis, Maryland. She worked and sailed in the Swampscott Recreation Commission Sailing Program and was a member of the United States Naval Academy Intercollegiate Sailing Team, sailing 420s.
Jennifer had a profound interest in government and earned a departmental award while a political science major at the Naval Academy. Her interest in government began while growing up in Swampscott and was enhanced as an intern in Congressman Peter Torkildsen’s Office.
Service to others was the core value guiding Captain Harris. Over the years, this value was demonstrated through her compassion for people and by a range of activities. While at Swampscott High School she participated in Toys for Local Children, a program for needy children. Later, as a Midshipman at the Naval Academy, she organized a similar program for children in the Annapolis area. Jennifer was also a volunteer at Salem Hospital, the Swampscott Public Library, and My Brother’s Table as well as being active in Multiple Sclerosis Walk-a-thons. Her service to others extended beyond organized activities and Jennifer’s kindness was notable through informal mentoring relationships with young people, relationships that often occurred through e-mail with people she didn’t know in person but who reached out to her and she responded.
Jennifer’s commitment to service was most evident in her decision to serve our country. As a Marine, she combined this commitment with her sense of compassion to be one of the best CH-46 pilots in the Marine Corps. She performed her military duties as a Casualty Evacuation pilot flying in and out of combat areas for the emergency evacuation of injured soldiers and Iraqi citizens, saving a countless number of lives.
Captain Harris served three tours of duty in Iraq and was killed in action on February 7, 2007 when the helicopter she was piloting was shot down.