The Citadel Class of 1970
From Arlington National Cemetery
Brigadier General Harry Bruner Axson, Jr., was born on September 20th, 1948 to Harry and Delores Axson, a Navy family serving in Patuxent River, Maryland. His father's military service brought the family to Charleston, South Carolina, where Harry would grow up and ultimately call "home". Harry attended St. John's grade school and graduated from Bishop England High School in 1966. He attended The Citadel where he graduated with T Company in the Class of 1970.
Harry forged a lifelong association with the 82nd Airborne Division and Fort Bragg, North Carolina early in his 35 year Army career, deploying into combat from there three times over the succeeding two decades to Grenada, Panama, and Desert Storm.
Following his first assignment as a platoon leader and company commander of the 1st Battalion, 325th Parachute Infantry Regiment and completion of the Infantry Officer Advanced Course, Harry returned to The Citadel as a Tac Officer and Assistant Professor of Military Science from 1976-1979. During that time the cadets tagged him with the sobriquet "High Pockets Harry", by which he was affectionately known.
After serving as the Assistant S-3, 2nd Brigade, and the S-3 with 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division in Kitzingen, Germany from 1979-1982, Harry attended the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He then returned to his beloved Fort Bragg in 1983, for what would be a decade of exceptional service broken only by a three-year tour in Washington, D.C., as an assignment officer and later Executive Officer in Infantry Branch and Colonel's division at the United States Military Personnel Center (MILPERCEN) from 1986-1989.
During his initial years back at Fort Bragg from 1983-1986, Harry deployed to Grenada as the Operations Officer, XVIII Airborne Corps and then served successfully in the 82nd Airborne Division as the 1st Brigade S-3 and Assistant Division G-3 (Operations). On return from Washington D.C., Harry took up his most cherished assignment, commanding the famed 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, whose paratroopers he courageously and inspiringly led into Panama for Operation Just Cause and subsequently to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Storm. Thereafter, he served as Chief of Joint Exercises, XVIII Airborne Corps for one year and as G-3 (Operations), 82nd Airborne Division before attending the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
In 1993, Harry assumed command of the 1st Brigade, 6th Infantry Division at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, after which he became the Executive Officer to the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCCOM) Commander in Chief at MacDill AFB, Florida, for the next three years. During this time Harry was selected for promotion to Brigadier General.
As a General Officer, Harry's assignments took him to Hawaii, the Pentagon, and back to Tampa. At Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii, Harry held the sensitive position of commanding Joint Task Force-Full Accounting (JTF-FA) from 1999-2001, traveling extensively throughout Southeast Asia to ensure the recovery of those Missing in Action. Harry then returned to Washington, D.C. from 2001-2003 a Director, Military Personnel Management and Policy on the Army Staff.
In his final assignment he served as the Deputy Director of Operations for the United States Central Command (USCENTCOM), deploying for the fourth time for Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Harry lived with a purpose, fully dedicated to his country. He was an inspirational leader who knew how to elevate his soldiers. He served his country with pride, effectively, and relentlessly.
In addition to being a master parachutist and Ranger qualified, among Harry's awards and decorations are the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, and the Combat Infantryman's Badge.
Harry retired from the Army as a Brigadier General in February 2005. He the joined the Northrop Grumman Corporation as the Corporate Lead Executive in Tampa, coordinating the enterprise's extensive federal, state, and defense operations in Florida for the next decade.
Even with his impressive career, Harry's foundation and motivation was his family. Harry always said his greatest accomplishments were marrying his wife, Kim, and having his two daughters, Ashley and Sydney. Harry was a devoted family man and a gentle giant within his household. He joked that he could move hundreds of soldiers faster than he could get Ashley and Syd to wake up for school. While this was true, he nurtured them. His booming laugh, unforgettable stories, and sense of humor filled their home with unending entertainment and joy. Those who knew the family will remember him not only attending all of Ashley's volleyball games, but her practices as well. He also traveled to watch Syd row in college and beyond. He was her biggest fan and the only person who could calm her pre-race nerves. He provided his daughters with unending guidance through their personal highs and lows, always showing his unfailing presence and devotion. Ashley and Syd always asked for his perspective, and while Harry often gave advice in the form of military analogies, he spoke from his heart and soul. Harry and Kim showed Ashley and Syd how to love without conditions and gave them an unfailing family bond. He believed in his daughters and raised them as women of integrity and compassion. In Kim he found his soul mate, best friend, and wife of 36 years. Their union proved to be unshakeable through countless relocations and several deployments. Harry leaned on Kim throughout his career to keep the family strong, which she did faithfully. When Harry retired from the military, he reveled in being home with Kim and the dogs. He was never shy in expressing his love for his family. As the family's core and eternal optimist, Harry never complained, believed life had been good to him and was truly happy. As Kim, Ashley, and Syd sum up their lives, "with Harry we had it all".
Editor's Note: Harry was a History major, Navy Contract, a proud member of "T" Company- a corporal, S/Sgt, and 1st LT.- and the 4th B/S. He was on the Honor Committee, Religious Council, Junior Sword Drill Platoon, Chapel Usher, Newman Club, History Club, Social Committee, Recruiting, and played Intramurals.