Soldier to scholar



He seems like your classic Californian, but underneath there’s more to this Santa Ana College athlete and Fullerton native.

After a 10-year hiatus from playing water polo in high school, Matt Harmier finds himself back in the water and enjoying the experience for what it is.

A graduate of Sunny Hills High School in 2001, he was a three year letter in water polo. Harmier now finds himself playing for Santa Ana College. At 28, he is the oldest player on the team. This time around he better understands the concept of commitment and teamwork.

When he signed up for the military after high school, Harmier had some idea of what he was getting into. He left for boot camp Sept. 5, 2001, but his role in the military didn’t really hit home for him until 9/11.  During boot camp, soldiers in training are not allowed contact with the outside world for several weeks. It wasn’t until he was in his doctor’s office when he overheard a secretary’s radio recapping the events of 9/11 from weeks earlier. He couldn’t believe it; he thought it was a prank. During a weekend furlough in the weeks that followed, he added another tattoo on his arm. It featured a patriotic skull.

In the military, he worked on an aircraft carrier as a boiler mechanic five decks below sea level.

While in the belly of the ship, he was responsible for some of the inner workings of the carrier. In an emergency, he would be the last man out. “You belong to the government at that point,” Harmier said.

In four years of service, he went to the Persian Gulf twice. He said he hasn’t seen combat because of the nature of his work on the aircraft carrier, though he had friends on the battlefield. He felt removed because of where he was; it was worlds away from fighting in sand, heat and extreme conditions.

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armier is humbled by these guys who live through the struggle of a soldier integrating back into civilian life. Now that he is at SAC and playing water polo again, he says he is glad to be part of the team. Harmier considers Coach Al Reyes Jr. “a fan of winning.”

SAC has nine players on the roster as opposed to 17 players on other teams. The nine are full steam ahead the entire game, no breaks, no replacements. “He pushes us hard,” he said.

Harmier found coach Reyes in the summer of 2011 after he saw water polo in the class schedule. With no real plans to play competitively, Harmier thought it was an intramural class just to stay in shape.

A journalism major, he hopes to become a moto-journalist: someone who rides motorcycles then reviews and writes about them.

In addition to his experience as a machinist, he has also worked as a tech for Suzuki in Brea.

Harmier doesn’t have dreams of becoming a star player but he sees his time playing water polo at SAC as fun and spontaneous. For now, he’s just enjoying the game.


  • 3 = Number of goals Harmier scored vs. Santa Monica Oct. 8.
  • 8 = Harmier is eight years older than the second oldest player on the team.
  • 2 = Tours of duty in the Persian Gulf.

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