Visiting the sleek offices of hedge fund managers and venture capitalists, as he has been doing of late, is not his thing. “I hate it,” he says matter-of-factly of the job of raising money for his nonprofit group. Among other activities, it works to increase crop yields in Kenya – a place he would much rather be.
But Mr. Harriman is used to taking on difficult tasks to achieve a higher goal. One such assignment led him to found Nuru International, dedicated to nothing less than “ending” extreme poverty.
As a Marine Special Operations platoon commander, Harriman was waiting for resupply on the highway to Baghdad in 2003 in an area where Saddam Hussein, still in power, was coercing poor Iraqi farmers with promises of food if they sabotaged oncoming coalition forces.
Unbeknown to Harriman, one such Iraqi was looking to escape that devil’s bargain. On a clear morning, the man jumped into his car with his wife and two children and headed down Highway 7 toward Harriman’s platoon.
Concerned that the car might be packed with explosives, and its driver on a suicide mission, Harriman and his marines fired warning shots, and the car stopped. The man bolted from the car and came running toward the Americans, frantically waving his arms. Suddenly an Iraqi military vehicle pulled up behind the man’s car, sprayed it with bullets, and sped off. As Harriman and the desperate farmer ran back toward the car they saw the carnage: The man’s wife and two children had been fatally shot.
Harriman left the military two years later as a decorated marine. But the events on Highway 7 remain a constant companion, both a tormentor and motivator.