Harrison Burney was born in Proctor, Vermont, in 1920 and grew up in the Rutland area. He joined the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936 and, with his parents' consent, the National Guard in 1937. In June of 1940 he enlisted in the regular army, joining the 1st Squadron, Troop B of the 3rd Horse Cavalry Regiment at Fort Ethan Allen in Colchester, Vermont.
He was one of five brothers, all of whom served in the armed forces during World War II. Harrison shipped to Europe in September of 1944 and was captured on December 21st. Over the course of his imprisonment he was moved from camp to camp in Germany, and was liberated on April 23, 1945 from a propaganda camp on the Black Sea. He was 24 and held the rank of Sergeant at the time of his capture. Read his personal account in Harrison Burnley's memoir From The Bowels of Hell, World War II, 1944 - 1945 (PDF).
In 1956 Harrison Burney rejoined the National Guard's 172nd Armored Regiment as a tank section Sergeant, retiring from the Guard when he was 60. Over the course of his working lifetime he was a coal miner, truck driver, and farmer; he retired from the General Electric plant in Rutland. Harrison has one son and two daughters. One daughter is deceased. He and his wife Charlotte live in Hampton, New York. Harrison is 84.