Army Veteran Harry Low has always been on a mission to save other people. His mission started in 1988, when he followed two older brothers into the service. He became a combat medic in an engineering unit, stationed at Fort Hood, Texas.
“As a medic, I stayed out in the field a lot, going out with the field units, two, three weeks at a time out in the field,” Low said. It was during one of these field exercises his unit received word there was an upcoming deployment to the Middle East.
“We’re talking the days before social media and the internet, so you don’t get a full story,” Low said. “It’s kind of word of mouth. I remember them pulling us in back early from the field and coming back into garrison and having a formation.”
Low soon learned the news: Saddam Hussein had entered Kuwait by force. His unit was now on alert to deploy. By August 1990, Low was on a plane, headed to the Middle East and landing in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.
“I’d never felt heat like that in my life,” he said. “Then we loaded up vehicles and we just drove. We drove down this highway and I remember just turning off the highway into the desert. We rode for just like it seemed hundreds of miles into the middle of nowhere and we just stopped.”
The war begins
Once Desert Shield turned into Desert Storm Jan. 17, Low was on the ground, prepared to save other people.
“You could just look outside your vehicle and just see the sky lighting up with the bombs dropping and the anti-aircraft, missiles shooting from the ground, going up and you not knowing who’s firing at who or who’s bombing who.”
Years later, Low still recalls the night’s events.
“You could feel the ground shaking, just what seemed all night,” he said.
Low and his teammates rounded up hundreds of Iraqi prisoners of war. He said they would walk up with flyers dropped from overhead aircraft, then turn themselves in.
“I have no idea to this day what they said,” he added.
As a medic, Low would check out the enemy prisoners of war. He made sure they were healthy enough for allied forces to pick them up. He also tended to Americans, mostly administering IV’s and addressing “a few scorpion bites.”
A new mission
By 1992, Low’s mission to care for the military ended when he left the Army. He picked up a new mission – caring for Veterans as a VA employee.
“When I started here, working with Veterans and taking care of Veterans, I knew this is where I wanted to be,” he said. “I wanted to be at VA.”
Low’s new mission caring for Veterans is as a social worker.
“We help them work past the barriers that kind of led to their homelessness, which may be mental health issues, addiction issues,” he said. “We help them get housed and teach them the skills so they can live independently.”
Vince Bryant, himself a Marine Corps and Navy Veteran, works with Low in the Healthcare for Homeless Veterans Program. Bryant, a support specialist, said the team is like the special forces of helping the homeless, traveling to wherever the Veteran may be, including under bridges or in drug houses. He said their work is focused on saving Veterans.
“When a person leaves the military, it’s kind of hard to readjust to the civilian sector,” Bryant said. “We’ve found ways of using the same skills in the military to help in the community. He was a medic. [Now] His job is to get Veterans out of the street and get them off drugs and alcohol.”
Low said his new mission is what drives him every day.
“I love what I do,” he said. “I love working with Veterans.”
Bryant said he’s personally seen Low transform a Veteran who was at an extremely low point, unable to hold a job and not taking his prescribed medication. Bryant said within six months, Low helped the Veteran turn around his life. The Veteran now has a job and a house – showing Low is still on his mission to save people.
“He took what he did in the military and revamped it for the civilian sector,” Bryant said.
For Low, saving people is what defines him.
“I guess it was just something that was instilled in me, like I’m still in my combat medic mode,” Low said. “And, every day just showing up, like on the battlefield, out to help save someone. I just feel like this is what I was born to do.”
Video by Canaan Brumley, Central Texas Veterans Health Care System