This poignant biography depicts the heroism of Charlie Harrison, a decorated war veteran and two-time prisoner of war. Lt. Col. (ret.) Harrison was one of the few men in American history to endure life as a POW twice. Harrison’s legacy is replete with determination, courage, and the will to survive. Faith, love of country and family, sustain this hero through his bleakest, darkest and most painful moments.
Harrison served over three decades as a Marine during America’s most pivotal conflicts – World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War. Harrison was first held captive by Chinese Reds as a result of the battle at the Chosin Reservoir. The then sergeant spent six months in captivity before he escaped.
During World War II, Harrison was held as a prisoner of war by the Japanese for three-and-a-half years. Harrison’s plight was to say the least, brutal. Nevertheless, Harrison remained a pillar of strength.
Harrison shares in an interview, “No person who would have ever known me well, especially (Harrison’s wife) Mary, would expect to find me bitter and disillusioned from my double dose of hard luck. I thought of many others, however, who as casual observers or acquaintances would probably expect to see a very dejected and spiritually broken Marine arrive home this second time. If only they could know how to appreciate America and ‘things American’ as I do.”
Harrison noted that he felt like he had become a “professional” POW. Undaunted, Harrison continued his tenure as a Marine and experienced Vietnam first-hand – serving valiantly – before completing his final tour of duty at Marine Barracks Fallbrook in Fallbrook.
Gen. James L. Jones, former U.S. Marine Corps commandant, wrote a letter to Harrison, (featured in “A Double Dose of Hard Luck”) on Dec. 13, 2001, that reads:
“The tremendous courage with which you faced more than four years of captivity by the enemy in two separate conflicts is nothing short of extraordinary. Under such conditions, other men might have given up hope but you did not. Your story of unfailing bravery against insurmountable odds is an inspiration to us all, and although there are many who will never know the tremendous sacrifices you’ve made in defense of the nation’s freedom, the nation is forever in your debt.”
LaBrie and McLaughlin are commended in their work of “A Double Dose of Hard Luck” in the forward written by Orlo K. Steele Major Gen. (ret.), USMC.
“I would like to commend Leo LaBrie and Theresa McLaughlin, for their hard work and dedication in preparing this splendid biography of my long-standing friend and fellow Marine. In my view, their account of Charles Lee Harrison’s life is a fitting tribute to a remarkable human being. During his thirty-year career as a US Marine, Charles Harrison repeatedly distinguished himself as he fought and bled for his country in three major wars.
“Moreover, during two of those conflicts, he suffered a total of 51 months of extremely harsh and oftentimes brutally dehumanizing treatment while in the hands of our enemies. Yet despite his agonizing years behind barbed write, Charles Harrison never became bitter, dejected or spiritually broken. Instead, he continued to fight and resist the enemy with the only weapons left for him – his faith and courage.”
The story behind writing “A Double Dose of Hard Luck” resulted from a serendipitous encounter. Harrison and his wife Mary were dining side-by-side to LaBrie who noticed Harrison’s baseball cap that identified him as a veteran. The following conversation fueled LaBrie to write a book. With Harrison’s permission, La Brie contacted Steele and obtained a transcript of Harrison’s oral interviews. LaBrie coordinated with McLaughlin to obtain Harrison’s military information to complete the impressive written account.
“What impressed me the most,” said McLaughlin, “and what I have learned the most from Lt. Col. Harrison, is that he never gave in to the anger and bitterness that most humans would have succumbed to after these types of experiences.
“He did not allow these experiences to define his future, but, rather, he lived with a quiet dignity, choosing to believe that ‘Life is very good, 24 hours each day, for the person who wishes to make it so.’"
McLaughlin grew up in Point Loma and received a bachelor of arts degree in English literature from San Diego State University.