Harold Freeman: A winding roadHarold Freeman joined the Navy not because he wanted to go to war, but because he believed it was the right thing to do.
By: Nathan Hansen, The Farmington Independent
Harold Freeman joined the Navy not because he wanted to go to war, but because he believed it was the right thing to do.
That’s the way things worked in 1943. With the United States deep in World War II, if you were an able-bodied young man, you enlisted in the military to help win the war. There wasn’t really a question.
It was a fearful time for many. In Los Angeles, where Freeman grew up, drivers were told to drive no faster than 30 miles per hour and keep their headlights dimmed. An air raid once delayed Freeman’s paper route two hours.
Freeman could have avoided service. He could have been a conscientious objector. He hated the idea of shooting at another human being. He tried to become a pilot because he figured it would be easier to fire at people he couldn’t see. But not enlisting was never really an option.
“That’s what you did to win the war,” Freeman said. “Everybody had to join something, and I chose the Navy. One of my friends was 4-F (unfit to serve) and he was looked down upon.”
Freeman was 17 years old when he enlisted, fresh from summers working in Los Angeles-area orange groves for spending money. He spent the next two years traveling the country for training. There was boot camp in Jacksonville, Fla., aviation ordnance school in Memphis. He went to Washington for gunnery training and Corpus Christi, Texas for operations training. By the time he was finished the war was all but over. Freeman never had to shoot at anyone.
“I flew halfway across the Pacific and back. That’s the closest I got,” Freeman said.
Freeman’s military service was over not long after that, but his travels weren’t. After the Navy, Freeman finished high school and studied chemistry at the University of California, Berkley.
Freeman was a student at Berkley when he met the woman who would become his wife. Freeman was on crutches at the time, the result of being hit by a drunk driver while he was on foot. The woman was his dental hygienist.
“She was beautiful. A very pretty young lady,” Freeman said. “She still is pretty. I liked her personality and we were on the same page in our Christian walk.”
Freeman was still on crutches when he got married. He drove the car for their honeymoon working the clutch with his crutch.
After college, Freeman found a couple of jobs to put his chemistry degree to work, but it wasn’t long before he felt called to do something more. He wanted to become a pastor. He liked the idea of learning Hebrew and Greek so he could study the Bible in its original language, and he wanted to teach the Bible’s lessons to others.
“I was a good teacher,” he said. “I could explain things well.”
So, the couple sold their house and moved with their three children to St. Anselmo, Calif. Freeman graduated from the seminary in three years and took a job in Baker, about 20 miles from Fargo. The family traveled halfway across the country with three children in a Pullman car.
Freeman spent five years in Baker and another 25 at the First Presbyterian Church in Hastings. He retired in 1989, and he and his wife bought a townhome in Farmington five years ago.
Freeman hasn’t had a chance to spend much time in that townhome lately. He’s been in and out of hospitals in nursing homes over the past year because of problems with his lungs. He’s living at Trinity Care Center now. He hopes to return home, but nobody has given him an idea when that might be possible, or whether it will be at all.
Freeman has done a lot in his life, and he’s been a lot of places. It’s been a good life, he said.
“I’d go back and do them all again,” he said.