The Pine Belt community that we love so dearly has produced some amazing people who are making a difference in our community, our state, our country, and even the world over. With that in mind our team has chosen to honor some of the American Heroes we have encountered as clients and now as friends and neighbors. The first recipient of THE GREAT AMERICAN ALL STAR award is a man who has deep roots in Hattiesburg – roots that have formed a foundation for an incredible life of purpose, leadership, compassion, and service.
Major General Larry Harrington (retired) served 32 years in the US Army - a career that included a variety of command and staff positions and numerous awards. His successful career includes assignments in some of the most demanding, complex, and strategically relevant positions. As commander of Task Force Storm, he deployed the joint brigade task force in Afghanistan providing essential counterinsurgency support to Joint Task Force 101 (CJTF101) and Joint Task Force 82 (CJTF82) in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. After Hurricane Katrina, Harrington commanded Task Force Engineer and was instrumental in stabilizing conditions in South Mississippi to begin rebuilding of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Earning some twenty-six awards from not only the U.S. Army and Mississippi Army National Guard, Harrington has also earned the “Zlotym Medalem” from the Polish Army and the French Army Medallion with recognition from the Czech Republic, the Swedish Army, and the French Army for his NATO leadership. Harrington’s military career is certainly praise worthy, but it’s what we learned when our team sat down with the general and his wife, Rosie, that made us understand what heroes are made of.
Both Harrington’s father and grandfather served in the U.S. military, but he didn’t exactly aspire to joining the service at a young age. He attended The University of Southern Mississippi on an athletic scholarship where he not only learned about the value of teamwork but where he was also introduced to the ROTC. Although, he may not have known then that he would make a career of the military, it was an obvious fit. He quoted, “I liked the structure, teamwork, and organization – being part of something larger than yourself.”
That “something larger” has lead Harrington to build a public service resume as noteworthy as his military service. Through his volunteer service, Harrington and a group of leaders brought Habitat for Humanity to Hattiesburg in the early 90’s, and today the program has helped some 40 low-income families build affordable housing. Harrington was chosen for the Chamber of Commerce New Leaders Program, Board of Directors for the Salvation Army and YMCA, President of the “M” Club, President of the Oak Grove Booster Club, and he was elected Commissioner of the Forrest and Lamar County Soil and Water Conservation District. “I was always taught you take care of the institutions in your life that make you what you are – church, family, military, and community.” said Harrington.
Quick to always give credit to God and then to his team members, Harrington says of his service, “I was fortunate and blessed to be needed.” On being asked what he felt was his greatest accomplishment, his spirit of teamwork was extremely evident when he replied, “Thirty-four years of marriage and two sons.” Harrington and his wife Rosie (DiFatta) were high school sweethearts. After joining the military the Harrington’s made it a priority to keep their family close to their hometown allowing their sons to enjoy a childhood among family even though the General continued to travel with his job.
Today Harrington works full time managing a company that performs contracts involving international construction, commercial communication and consulting for the US government globally. In discussing the attributes Harrington looks for in hiring an individual for a job, we discovered that he uses the concept of the Four E’s which consist of Energy, Excellence, Edge and Execution. He further explained ‘he looks for someone who will have the physical stamina, sense of quality work, expertise in the task and the ability to follow through on any project to its satisfactory completion’.
Harrington remains dedicated to the U.S. military and in recent years has served on a panel of retired generals whose research helped to identify one the biggest threats to our nation’s military force. According to their research 80% to 90% of Americans between the age 17 and 24 do not qualify for the military due to a lack of good-quality education on the preschool level and overall diminishing physical fitness in our country. He pointed out that children between the ages of 1 and 3 learn the habits of a lifetime. Harrington is hoping this information will help secure funding for creating and improving early education programs.