Columbus attorney, writer Andy Harp among group
By ALLISON KENNEDY
Comedians, cheerleaders and cartoonists. Add thriller writers to the list of civilians who are rallying U.S. troops in war zones.
Andy Harp, a Columbus attorney and author of “A Northern Thunder,” returned earlier this week from a 10-day USO tour to Washington, D.C., and Iraq. One of five U.S. suspense writers to make the trip, dubbed “Operation Thriller,” Harp and his group had the approval of the Department of Defense. Part of the mission was to encourage the military personnel in the war, and also to encourage aspiring writers to keep diaries from the field.
“It went astonishingly well,” said Harp, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 30 years.
His traveling companions were:
James Rollins (“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” and the Sigma Force series including “The Devil Colony”)
In the nation’s capital, the trip started with visits to wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Naval Medical Center. From there, the five men flew to Kuwait City from which they traveled to military bases. They stayed in one of Saddam Hussein’s presidential palaces.
“That was an interesting experience,” Harp said. “It was where Dan Rather and Barbara Walters interviewed Hussein. It was very ornate but you could tell it was a cheaply constructed building.
“Even the chandelier -- I wouldn’t say it was plastic, but it wasn’t a real chandelier.”
From there, the authors spent time with troops in Baghdad then went to Mosul in northern Iraq. They also saw troops in Balad and Basra in the far south. In the field, they stayed in containers in barracks, near bunkers. They often heard mortar fire.
Harp was chosen to make the trip because of his membership in the International Thriller Writers Association.
The tour took about a year to organize and plan.
Harp took five years to write “Thunder,” and three to write his newest, “The Meggido Factor.” He’s currently shopping for a publisher.
After the five authors landed back in Washington, D.C., they were interviewed by CNN, whose reporters asked them to name their favorite part of the trip.
“I said it was the reaction on the faces of the troops when we met them,” Harp said.
The USO (United Service Organizations) was founded in 1941, on the cusp of U.S. entry into World War II. Providing emotional support to troops, the USO coordinates entertainment trips as well as various programs including care packages.
In the Marines, Harp was a Regimental Battery Commander with the 11th Marines, and became Instructor in Charge of the Instructor Group at the Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, Calif., according to his bio.
He is 1973 graduate of American University and 1980 graduate of the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University.
Harp began his legal career as a District Attorney in Cordele, Ga. At the same time, he remained in the Marine Corps Reserves. He rose to the rank of colonel. As a logistics officer, he served in South Korea and once briefed the Commandant of the Republic of Korea’s Marine Corps. He also served in Central America, the Persian Gulf and Europe and at the Pentagon. In 1997, he was elected National President of the Marine Corps Reserve Officers Association. His decorations include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal and Navy Commendation Medal.
Harp is married to Jane Harp, and they have four children.
Allison Kennedy is at 706-576-6237