Max Noel Harbison
AFRH-G resident highlight - Max Noel Harbison
By Lori Kerns | Librarian
Max Noel Harbison was born at home in Park County, Indiana in 1934. He was the youngest of five children born to farmers. With his parents’ permission, Max joined the Army National Guard at the age of 16. He said he joined because it was “just something we boys done.” He graduated high school and stayed around to help on the family’s farm until everything was sorted out then decided to join the United States Air Force.
He entered at age 19 and stayed in fuels, later adding loadmaster, for his whole career.
Max’s first orders brought him overseas to fight in the Korean War. He was brought to Kimpo by LST (landing ship, tank) where he was only given a poncho and sea rations to live and sleep on the deck. Once they landed in Kimpo, the men were given eight-man tents as quarters to live in during the winter. The whole wing moved in 1955 to Chitose Air Base in Japan. While stationed there, he met Miyako, who Max lovingly refers to as the “finest woman in the world.” The couple married and Max was sent back to the States the day after their wedding. The newlyweds called Lincoln, Nebraska home for a couple of years before getting orders to go back to Japan. While overseas, Max also went to Laos, where he worked with Air America as a loadmaster for de Havilland planes. Max was finally able to move back to the United States when he received orders for Big Spring, Texas to work at the Air Defense Command. Once he made tech sergeant, he was sent back overseas again to Takhli, Thailand to the F-105 base to aid in the fight against Vietnam. He was in charge of the special fuel used by the SR-71 Blackbirds, but also helped fuel the F-105s used in Rolling Thunder. He made it back to Japan again and stayed for a while until moving back to U.S. soil to work in Houston. By this time, Max and Miyako had three teenage children, Janeese, James, and Janet. He began thinking about retirement because he had already put in 20 years. Unfortunately he did not get to file any paperwork before being called to the Philippines where he served as an operations NCO. The move was not easy for the family so Max decided to buy horses for the kids so that they had something to occupy their time.
After giving the U.S. Air Force 26 years of service, Max decided to retire at the rank of E-7. He began working as a civilian at the harbor in Gulfport, Mississippi. He then worked with another company that owned tankers, tugboats, and barges. He stayed with this company until he urgently made the decision to become a full-time caregiver for Miyako, who had just gotten diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The couple lived in Saucier, Mississippi while battling her disease. Miyako lost her battle in 2009 after spending a wonderful weekend surrounded by family. Max did not feel comfortable staying without his wife in their home so he decided to move to AFRH-G. He lived in the home for about three years before he met Barbara at one of the Friday night dances. They dated and then decided to marry in 2015. Max moved out of AFRH to live with Barbara in Gulfport. He then decided to take up residence at AFRH again in 2019, though the couple still remain happily married. Max enjoys his days at AFRH-G by volunteering to help new residents with their checking in process. He also enjoys reading, especially anything by Louis L’Amour!