Giving HOPE: Joshua Harman shares story

  • Published
  • 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

The melody of “Amazing Grace” ebbs and flows from solemn to jubilant, filling the room with a harmonious symphony of music, faith, and resilience. With every stroke of the bow, the violinist plays with a smile, intertwining his passion for the violin seamlessly with his commitment to spreading hope.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Joshua Harman, 95th Reconnaissance Squadron avionics journeyman, is an Oregon native and violinist who enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in February 2019. In honor of the HOPE Spiritual Fitness Initiative, he shares his story of resiliency as a current HOPE specialist at RAF Mildenhall.

Harman has 12 siblings. Due to his tough upbringing, Harman and his siblings were placed in foster care. After 8 years, he and two brothers were adopted in 1998.

“My biological family struggled with addiction and mental health,” said Harman. “We were sent to foster care. My adoptive family taught us to play the violin, and at the same time, I adopted faith.”

Prevailing through childhood adversity, Harman developed a resilient mindset at an early age.

“Growing up, I learned that every day was a fresh start,” said Harman. “As you mature, you learn how to process through the things that are hard so they don’t repeat themselves.”

Harman’s adoptive parents equipped him with lifelong resiliency skills that he uses today.

“My adoptive family taught us to play the violin, and at the same time, I adopted faith,” said Harman. “It created a place of stability for me so powerful, I attribute it to my ability to be resilient.”

Through the violin, Harman found a voice that transcended words, allowing him to express the depth of his emotions and experiences in a way words could not capture.

“I was initially classically trained in violin, which later opened doors to bluegrass, rock, hip-hop, and mixing genres together” said Harman. “The violin allows me to tap into my heart, and I love being able to share that with other people as an extension of myself.”

As an adult, Harman got married and had children. Later in his adult life, he felt that he and his family could benefit from a structured lifestyle as a U.S. Air Force family.

“I felt called to join the military after praying and speaking to my wife about it for a while,” recalled Harman.

Harman joined the Air Force at 30 years old as a husband and father of two. After joining, he quickly sought opportunities to grow, serving as a teal rope - a peer leader - in tech school, gaining his 5-level as an aviation systems journeyman, and auditioning as a violinist for the Air Force Strings band.

“I didn’t get in at my audition, but I gave it my best shot,” said Harman. “My initial desire was to play violin for the Air Force Strings band, but at the audition, I cared more about the stories of people than I did about the audition itself.”

After being stationed at RAF Mildenhall, Harman was able to hone his passion for people’s stories through the HOPE Spiritual Fitness Initiative.

“HOPE is about stories,” said Harman. “Being able to have one-on-one conversations is what I am looking for.”

The HOPE initiative is a community program that fosters connection among Airmen and promotes wingmanship. Through the HOPE Spiritual Fitness Initiative, participants learn soft skills that enable support as an extension of the chaplain corps.

“As a HOPE specialist, I check in on my fellow Airmen and make sure to offer resources to Airmen in need," said Harman.

The program aims to foster a movement of specialists dedicated to spiritual fitness, resiliency, and community service, who communicate their unit’s needs to the chaplain corps religious support team and enlisted leadership.

“We are developing Airmen so they can integrate into their units and be a force of organic caregivers, who are equipped and ready to deliver resilience support anytime, anywhere”, said U.S. Air Force Maj. Justin Szeker, 48th Fighter Wing deputy wing chaplain.

HOPE Airmen work in their primary career fields but have the skills to deliver resiliency support and connect people to resources. For Airmen like Harman, the HOPE Spiritual Fitness Initiative improves the quality of life within the force.

“It actively is an opportunity every day,” Harman said. “When I see people come in and check out tools, it helps me check in on people to determine where they are and share hope and encouragement. As a HOPE specialist, you see a need, and you fill the need in whatever capacity that you have.”

Becoming a HOPE specialist takes a long period of academic commitment. HOPE specialists must participate in the program for six months consistently in addition to 20 hours of education or training. This includes continuing education in 5 different categories: spiritual fitness, leadership development, volunteering, privileged communication, and suicide intervention.

“I think the program has given me skills to check in on people tactfully, to determine where they are mentally, and share hope and encouragement,” said Harman.

In addition to his commitment to HOPE, Harman works as an avionics specialist, serves on the worship team at his local church, and is a husband, and father to four children now. During the duty week, he wakes up every day at 5:30 a.m.; goes to work for eight hours; attends worship practice, HOPE, and other chapel-based programs multiple times a week; spends a few hours with his family; and prepares for the next day at night.

“I can balance my career through my support system: my wife, family, church, and several other mentors that I have,” Harman said. “I utilize the people around me that are on my side and step back and take a knee when I need to.”

Harman has received numerous awards for sharing his musical talent at retirement ceremonies, changes of command, and other Air Force-related events. Additionally, he combines his musical talent with his passion for outreach at church every week, attending worship practice and Sunday mass.

“Volunteering with my church has been an opportunity for me to serve my fellow Airmen,” said Harman.

Due to his passion for connecting to people and learning their stories, Harman aims to cross-train into public affairs.

“I met some public affairs specialists at a HOPE meeting, and they helped me realize the power of telling stories and connecting with people,” said Harman. “I would love to cross train into PA if I could.”

Harman hopes to make a positive impact on his community as a HOPE specialist.

“Being able to have boots on the ground in our community, where I can check in as you are turning wrenches, is a wonderful opportunity for me to show that I care,” said Harman. “It is really important to be a fellow wingman.”

The HOPE initiative representatives meet at the 48th Fighter Wing chapel every Wednesday evening from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. It is open to all ranks and is organized into three tiers: Tier 1 for junior enlisted Airmen, Tier 2 for noncommissioned officers, company grade officers, senior noncommissioned officers, and field grade officers.

For more information about the HOPE Spiritual Fitness Initiative, contact the RAF Lakenheath Chapel at DSN 314-226-3711 or commercial at +44 01638523711.