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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Salem grad headed to Annapolis

Thursday, June 16, 2005

A Salem junior high football player was walking to class one late summer morning when fear gripped his entire body.

As he walked to class, William "Luke" Harber noticed all of his teachers were in the hall whispering to one another with grief stricken looks on their faces.

Harber peered into one classroom and saw an image that will live with him forever -- a plane slamming into the World Trade Center Towers in New York.

After watching the footage over and over again, Harber made a vow to himself that he would do everything in his power to prevent that from happening to his country again.

Now that he has graduated from high school he may get his chance.

Harber has been accepted into the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. Harbor, who graduated as co-valedictorian from Salem High School in May, said his appointment is a dream come true.

"I've always thought anyone who is capable should join the military and pay back our country and people," Harbor said. "I'm glad my chance will come as an officer."

Harber said he plans to study aeronautical engineering and political science during his four-year stay at the Naval Academy.

His first goal is to become a pilot. "Someday I want to work for NASA and fly the space shuttle," Harber said. "Or maybe I'll run for (political) office at the local or state level. I might even run for Congress."

Two things nearly prevented Harber from joining the Naval Academy -- poor eyesight and turning his application in late.

"Most people turn in their application in the summer of their junior year," Harber said. "I turned mine in the fall of my senior year."

Harber said letters of recommendation from U.S. Sens. Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln helped, but a letter from Congressman Marion Berry ensured his appointment.

He said his other consideration, his eyesight, has been addressed too.

"I have 20/50 vision in one eye and 20/40 vision in the other," Harber said. "They told me with corrective surgery I could see well enough to fly."

Dealing with adversity has been commonplace for Harber. Jack Harber, Harber's grandfather, died of a heart attack two years ago. Harber said his grandfather's passing was tough on him and his brother.

"We lived with them (grandparents) most of our lives," Harber said. "He (Jack Harber) was strict but he loved us and showed us how to work and act."

Harber said he will miss his grandmother, Sharon Harber, when he leaves. "She is the closest thing to a mother I have," Harber said. "She is very dear to me."

Harber was named an all-conference offensive lineman his senior year. Standing 5-7 and weighing 160 pounds, Harber was often matched against players who were half a foot taller and outweighed him by as much as 100 pounds.

He did this while nursing an injured left leg for over half the season. But Harber said he never backed down.

"I'm not going to lie, sometimes it was hard taking on those big guys, but I didn't quit and I won't quit," Harber said.

Harber's twin brother, Lynn, played fullback and intends to play football for Arkansas Tech next year.

"My brother is pretty much my best friend," Harber said. "I'm pretty sure he would do anything for me and I know I would do anything for him."

Lynn Harber was also a co-valedictorian at Salem.

The accomplishments of the Harber brothers are magnified when you consider they had full-time jobs throughout their high school years. Harber works 20 to 30 hours a week at the Salem Town and Country.

In their spare time, the Harber twins enjoy hunting, fishing, camping and spending time with their dad, Doug.

"He drives a truck so he's gone most of the time," he said. "But when he's around we do stuff together. He's a good dad who's sacrificed much for us."

Harber said it will be difficult leaving Fulton County. He said he will miss the county fairs, dances, friends and his two younger brothers.

"The Homecoming (Festival) will be a real homecoming for me over the next few years because it will hit around the time I'll get out for the summer," Harber said.

Six weeks before classes start, Harber will go through boot camp at the Naval Academy. He said the purpose of the boot camp is to weed out cadets candidates who can't handle the pressure.

"They won't weed me out," Harber said. "I'll keep going even when my body fails me."

During his first year at the academy, Harber and his freshman classmates are not allowed to leave the base and cannot drive a car. Only senior cadets are allowed to have a car on campus.

Harber said he knew Marine Jason Clairday, a Salem High School graduate who died in Iraq last winter.

"I didn't know him very well, but I got to spend some time with his wife (Sarah Clairday) while we were on our senior trip in Gulf Shores, Ala.," he said.

Would Harber lay down his life for his country if he had too?

"I have strong faith in God and I'm not afraid of death," Harber said. "It would be hard on my family, but if its God's will I can accept it."

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