Local veterans remember time spent in service
It’s quite clear that 87-year-old Hal Hardin emerged from his career in the United States Military relatively unscathed.
He’ll tell you he was lucky, despite having served our country during some of the world’s major conflicts of the 20th century. Hardin worked directly with the Pentagon throughout his service, dealing with everything from nuclear weapons to nerve agents.
The decorated Summit County veteran and retired three-star lieutenant general served in both the Korean and Vietnam wars and had a vast career spanning more than 30 years.
Shortly after the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of 1945, 17-year-old Hardin joined the army.
The Kansas City, Missouri, native didn’t think twice about the decision because that’s just what you did in those days, he said.
He completed his service, graduated college and married his wife, Doris, in 1951.
And then the Korean War started.
On his own volition, Hardin re-enlisted on March 17, 1952, and never looked back.
Summit County veterans
Hardin is one of roughly 2,000 veterans residing in Summit County, with about 600 veterans in Park City alone, according to vice commander of the local American Legion Post Brian Seay.
Orem native and 54-year-old Kathy Welsh said she joined the Army Reserves before turning 19 to halt her "wild child" streak.
"I was lacking a direction. I liked the freedom and enjoyed the financial independence the Army brought," Welsh said of her decision. "It’s probably the smartest thing I’ve ever done."
The Park City Medical Center nurse’s 20-year career required two stays in Germany, which resulted in her daughter speaking German exclusively until she was three years old. But her service also enabled her to obtain a nurse’s license through the G.I. Bill.
Engaging the youth
American Legion Post Commander and retired Major Kristian Smith said the legion will be supporting the Park City School District this year in its attempt to reach out to the younger residents of Summit County.
"We’re trying to bring it home to the young folks in the community," Smith said. "It’s one thing for students to read about and see pictures, but when they hear from actual veterans, it sparks an interesting reaction.
"They haven’t been around during a time of peace and being in a somewhat isolated community, they don’t realize," he said. "I think it’s important for the youth to understand the importance of contributing to the greater good."
Smith said he and other local veterans will participate in a program at the Jeremy Ranch Elementary School on Veterans Day, Tuesday, Nov. 11. Smith said legion members have participated in the programs with PCSD for the last three years.
The legion is also sponsoring an event primarily focused on veterans at the No Name Saloon, 447 Main St in Park City, at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday night.
"The purpose of it is to get some of the vets out to try and get a networking thing going so they know who to contact if they need our services," Smith said.
Vietnam veteran Glenn Wright said Veterans Day resonates deeply with him having served two tours between 1969 and 1975.
"I have friends who I served with who are on the wall and it’s still a fresh memory for me," Wright said. "We signed up to defend our country and we still have conflicts going on around the world. But with only one percent of the population serving, I think people put it out of their mind."
For Welsh, serving in the military wasn’t just her experience, it was her entire family’s, so she thinks Veterans Day should reflect that.
"You have to think about the husbands and wives who support the family while the spouse is on deployment. The children who don’t know where dad and mom are, and if they are coming back," she said.
During his 30-year career, Hardin said he and his wife figured he was gone for almost 10 years while he was stationed abroad.
"If you go into the military, it’s hard to serve two masters: the state of marriage and the Army," he said.
Hardin wasn’t around for some of the monumental moments in his children’s lives, like the birth of his oldest daughter. But his family never resented him for, he said.
"A number of my friends had family problems and I was fortunate I was never exposed to that," he said. "I’m very proud to have served because I really think it is a privilege and a trust.
"Veterans Day is an important day for remembrance and a little prayer here and there. Any time I talk to a group, I tell them don’t forget," Hardin said.