October 14, 2022: James Lee Harper

Air Force Veteran James Lee Harper is today’s Veteran of the Day.
Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is U.S. Air Force Veteran James Lee Harper, who served as a combat cameraman.

James “Jimmy” Lee Harper Jr. was born in January 1980 in Newport News, Virginia. After graduating from Mid-Carolina High School in Prosperity, South Carolina, he enlisted in the United States Air Force.

Harper served with the 1st Combat Camera Squadron in Charleston, South Carolina, as a photojournalist in 2002. While he was part of the 1st Combat Camera Squadron, his imagery was used in print media, various websites, and broadcast media globally during sustained combat operations. Harper became known as an aerial-combat photojournalist with many humanitarian and war-time images captured on the ground and in the air. As a combat photographer, his mission was to illustrate what was going on for the Department of Defense and effectively become the eyes and ears of people who weren’t physically where he was.

In January 2005, Harper deployed to Sri Lanka during the tsunami relief efforts to document the disaster. In 2007, he was sent to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to train with a distinctive Task Force assigned to Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). Afterward, he had numerous deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkey and Bosnia. Additionally, he also deployed on humanitarian assignments, like Haiti after the earthquake, Sumatra, and New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. During these missions, he demonstrated what was happening on the ground and how U.S. resources were being used. He also flew in aircraft such as an F-15 Eagle from the Louisiana Air National Guard, an F-22 Raptor from Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, and an F-16 Aggressor aircraft from the 18th Aggressor Squadron out of the Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. In 2013, Harper worked hard to advance his career into the Officer Corps and graduated from Officer Training School, commissioned as an intelligence officer. He served in that role until his retirement.

Many of Harper’s colleagues spoke highly of him, calling him a great friend. Jim Fabio, a colleague from the 1st Combat Camera Squadron, said,  “Jimmy also had a palpable sense of duty, an unstoppable devotion to the mission, and a keen sense of humor that allowed friends and teammates to embrace a sense of levity at even the most serious time.”

Over his 22-year career, Harper was a recipient of two Bronze Stars, a Meritorious Service Medal, an Air Medal, two Air Force Commendation Medals, a Joint Service Achievement Medal, and an Air Force Combat Action Medal, as well as the Army’s Air Assault Badge.

Harper died by suicide in August 2022 at the age of 42. 

We honor his service.

If you are a Veteran experiencing thoughts of suicide or worried about one, Veteran Crisis Line responders are ready to listen and help. This is available 24/7, 365 days a year by dialing 988 (and pressing 1), texting 838255, or chatting online at https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/.

Nominate a Veteran for #VeteranOfTheDay

Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.

It’s easy to nominate a Veteran. Visit our blog post about nominating to learn how to create the best submission.

Writer: Melody Yuan

Editors: Tayler Rairigh, Cynthia Xu

Reseacher: Carl Wesseln

Graphic Designer: Charles F. Hundley

By DME Interns

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Published on Oct. 14, 2022

Estimated reading time is 2.5 min.

Views to date: 1,124


  1. George Dormon October 17, 2022 at 11:31 am

    a heartbreaking story
    how does a hero ask for help?

  2. Sylvia Santos October 17, 2022 at 3:01 am

    Veteran, James Lee Harper, dear Sir, I appreciate your Honorable service as an Airforce Officer in communications in Journalism. I’m so saddened that after all the Honorable work you did for our country, and as of today, I just first learn about you, and I’m so heart broken to hear about your passing. May your soul rest in peace, and those who will remember you would be for the Honorable service you provided as an Airforce Officer. My brother served in the US ARMY, as a Seargent, Parachute Jumper, and he was stationed in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

  3. Pablo Meza October 14, 2022 at 11:51 am

    Rest in Peace brother. Til Valhalla

Comments are closed.

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