It’s been 22 years since brothers Jimmy and Bobby Harsh joined the Maryland State Police, both earning awards and recognitions along the way. They celebrated their retirements with a joint party at the Potomac Fish and Game Club on Nov. 17.
“I probably have one of the best jobs in the world,” Jimmy Harsh, 48, said.
“Without a doubt. It was an honor — to actually make a difference in people’s lives,” said Bobby Harsh, 45.
The brothers, along with their older brother, Dwayne Harsh, grew up with a father who volunteered with the Williamsport Ambulance Service in addition to farming a 300-acre farm.
Dwayne runs County Medical Transport, the private ambulance company their parents, Robert “Bob” and Shirley Harsh founded in 1982.
Initially, Jimmy didn’t want anything to do with emergency medicine.
Their father “would drag us along to all those calls. He really had to twist my arm to get involved. I was bitter about the ambulance hall and fire hall taking him away so much,” Jimmy said.
Jimmy got his CPR certification at age 15 and went on his first official ambulance call near Sharpsburg to assist with a small plane crash with one survivor.
“That was the day the bug bit me,” Jimmy said.
The three Harsh brothers often accompanied their father on ambulance and Bobby was on that particular call as well.
Jimmy became an emergency medical technician at 16 and if there weren’t enough volunteers available, he and another Williamsport High student would be excused from school to go on ambulance calls.
They would wait at the school’s flagpole for the ambulance to pick them up. In 1982, Jimmy became a cardiac rescue technician and graduated from high school.
Bobby earned his CPR certification.
The two brothers’ careers were similar, but different.
The brothers worked for County Medical Transport in Williamsport during and after high school.
In 1986, Jimmy took a job with Anne Arundel County Fire Department, followed two years later by Bobby.
They also volunteered and worked part-time with Community Rescue Service.
Both had long been interested in working for the Maryland State Police.
Bobby was accepted into the March 1990 class at the Maryland State Police Academy and Jimmy the July 1990 class.
Straight out of academy, Bobby completed field training and transferred into aviation command in Frederick, where he was for 19 years.
Jimmy’s first assignment was as a road trooper in Rockville, then at Andrews Air Force Base, before being assigned to the aviation division in Cumberland in 1991.
“We fit the bill,” Bobby said.
“I never went to work a day in my life. I loved my job so much,” Jimmy said.
The last few years, the brothers both worked in the Cumberland barrack, with Bobby working the day shift, while Jimmy was on nights.
“We used to joke that in a bad accident, you’d get picked up by one us. You’d get a Harsh,” Jimmy said.
Both were firearms instructors and Bobby was a primary aerial rescue instructor for 10 years for the aviation division, assisted by Jimmy for two years by Bobby.
Both men are married to nurses and many of their cousins work in the medical field. They each have three children.
In the past few years, the job had taken its toll, though, especially as they deal with medical issues of their own.
Bobby was diagnosed with melanoma on his left cheek at the end of 2007, which required extensive surgery in early 2008. About eight months later it metastasized to the lungs.
In July 2011, Jimmy’s daughter Kaitlyn Harsh, then 14, was diagnosed with leukemia. She missed her sophomore year at Williamsport High School.
She celebrated her 16th birthday on Thanksgiving.
“That was one of the reasons I decided to hang it up when I did. When you have a kid, it makes everything different. Being on this end instead of the other end is pretty devastating,” Jimmy said.
Jimmy keeps busy as advanced life support coordinator for CMT and his side business as The Mulch Man, which is expanding to full-time.
Bobby works as the mechanic for CMT and helps around the family farm. Even though Bobby was eligible to retire in May, he waited until July so the brothers could retire together.
“I don’t look at is as retiring, just changing careers. After I got sick, I was off work 16 months for treatment. I decided the adrenaline was for younger people,” Bobby said.