JACKSONVILLE, Fla -- A Northside man said he won't lay his veteran father's ashes to rest until he has made an impact in the fight against drinking and driving.
Carl Harms thinks about the past a lot. Afterall, his life dramatically changed on April 22, 2007.
"At 4:24 p.m., I got a call from the Harrison County coroner's office. I didn't want to believe it," Harms said.
Earlier that morning, his 56-year-old father, James Harms, was driving on Interstate 10 outside of Gulfport, Mississippi.
The elder Harms was headed to Louisiana to live with his daughter. Carl said his sister had asked their father to move in with her. With his son's blessing, James packed up his home down the street from Carl's home in north Jacksonville, and was on his way.
"He left it up to me on whether he was going to go. He told me if I didn't want him to go, he wouldn't go. I told him, it might be good for him," Carl said.
An hour after Carl learned of his father's death, details on the crash began to emerge.
Gulfport Police told him that James Harms was hit by a 21-year-old woman who had been drinking and driving. Police arrested Alicia Carmack, and charged her with DUI causing death and fleeing the scene of an accident. Carmack is serving a 10-year sentence in Mississippi prison.
Every day since his father's death has been difficult for Carl and his family. He said his father served in the United States Navy as a Chief Petty Officer, and worked at Cecil Field.
"He was my hero. Twenty-three years with the U.S. Military. I've never served, but to know what he'd done, who he'd served with, and the time he'd given to the U.S. Navy -- he was protecting our freedom," Carl said.
Carl said he does not drink, but learning that his father's death occured because someone was drinking and driving has lit a fire in him to be a voice for justice. He's become involved with Compassionate Families grief recovery group and is working on a DUI awareness program he'd like to take to schools.
"[To change] the irresponsibility for other lives and to take responsibility. That people understand how they are doing that," Carl said.
He saved his father's ashes and plans to lay them to rest at the Jacksonville National Cemetary, but not until he feels like he's made changes in the fight against drinking and driving, and given a voice to victims' families.
"If I can speak to 1,000 and reach one, I've done my job. My father's done his job," Carl said.
First Coast News