JENNIFER J. HARRIS, CAPT, USMC
Jennifer Harris '00
Date of birth: November 6, 1978
Date of death: February 7, 2007
From the 2000 Lucky Bag:
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.
She is buried in Massachusetts.
The Captain Jennifer Jean Harris Memorial Trust Fund honors the life of Captain Harris and promotes leadership development in young adults who exemplify her qualities of courage, honor, compassion, and commitment to serving others. The Trust provides financial assistance for college or military expenses through annual scholarships. Selected candidates, by way of their demonstrated good citizenship, participation in community service, and kindheartedness perpetuate Jennifer J. Harris’ legacy of selfless service.
The Seven Stars Foundation was established in honor of the seven crew members of Jennifer's helicopter.
Swampscott High School in Swampscott, MA includes a memorial to Jennifer.
Marine Corps League Captain Jennifer J. Harris Detachment 871 is named for Jennifer.
Jennifer J. Harris Square is in Swampscott, MA; it was dedicated May 28, 2007.
From USNA Alumni Association on October 8, 2017:
Members of the Class of 2000 dinghy sailing team returned to Annapolis 6 October for a ceremony marking the renaming of the Navy Fall Women’s Sailing Championship as the Jen Harris Memorial Regatta. Lifelong sailing enthusiast Captain Jennifer Harris ’00, USMC, raced 420s at the Academy and continued sailing while awaiting flight school in Pensacola. She served three tours in Iraq piloting her CH-46, evacuating countless Marines and Iraqis and saving many lives along the way. She was killed in action in February 2007 when the helicopter she was piloting—ferrying blood to aid wounded Marines—was shot down.
The day after the renaming ceremony, which was also attended by several of Harris’ family members, college sailors representing 18 schools nationwide competed in Lasers, FJs and Harris’ choice, the 420. The Naval Academy came in 11th place in an event won by the College of Charleston.
A new granite plaque recognizing winners of the Jen Harris Memorial Regatta will be displayed in the Intercollegiate Sailing Hall of Fame on the second floor of the Robert Crown Sailing Center.
Jennifer and her crew were featured in a CNN piece.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030 reported on Jennifer's funeral service in February 2007.
Jennifer Harris exemplified the best of what this country has to offer. She had a passion for life and was a compassionate human being. Anthony Macone, family spokesman