The main reason Sgt. James “Jim” Harris joined the military was because he wanted to protect and serve his country. He served in the Army National Guard for 27 years before he was injured while he was deployed to Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2007.

“After that, I decided it was time to retire,” he said.

He lives in Vilonia with his wife, Wanda, and their three sons — Garrett, Trace and Ryan.

“James came up with an idea of a patriotic mailbox to show his gratitude to all the men and women who have served and are still serving this great country,” Wanda said.

Harris said that he’s had the idea for years.

“I’ve always wanted to do a patriotic mailbox,” he said. “With the help of [family, friends and some local businesses] the dream became a reality.”

About a year ago, he came up with the design that features an artillery shell, giant dog tags featuring the Harris name and traditional American symbols — the bald eagle and American flag.

“At one time I was in a field artillery unit so I came up with the idea for the mortar from that,” he said.

D&D Concrete of Vilonia donated the concrete and poured it for free. Andy Lee of Vilonia Metal Works, Inc. and Eric Jones of Airbrush Outfitters of Searcy helped with mailbox and cover.

Harris said fellow veteran Bob Peters was a “huge help that saved me a lot of time and money.”

All told, he said, the project took around a year. The mailbox is compliant with Federal regulations. Patriotic mailboxes are rarely as elaborate as the one Harris installed, but ideas are readily available across the internet.

Harris said if others want to create a patriotic mailbox of their own, he would willing to help them.

“If someone was interested in something like that, I could help them come up with a design,” he said.