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Route 45 Interchange Named After Wounded Warrior, Sgt. Adam Hartswick

by on September 18, 2014 8:00 PM

Sgt. Adam Hartswick is quick to say that he is not a hero.

Though he was honored Thursday by having part of Route 45 named after him, Hartswick stayed thankful and humble.

“I can think of four other men that deserve roads named after them,” the State High graduate says, referring to his four friends who lost their lives in the explosion that took Hartswick’s legs in Afghanistan last year.

“No, I’m not a hero – but I can think of a few,” he says.

The Sergeant Adam Hartswick Interchange was unveiled on Thursday at a news conference at the Ferguson Township Lions Club, where Hartswick and his family were joined by state legislators and members of the local community, many of them veterans themselves.

Hartswick’s interchange runs from Route 26 to Business Route 322 in Boalsburg.

Morgen Hummel, Hartswick’s mother, says she was deeply honored by the occasion and proud of her son, whom she lovingly referred to as her hero. She says she hears negative stories about the government all too often, and says it’s a wonderful change of pace to see the Pennsylvania legislature go out of its way to recognize Adam’s sacrifice.

“It takes an extraordinary sacrifice to inspire this kind of extraordinary effort,” Hummel says.

State Representative Scott Conklin (D – Centre County) says he feels very lucky to be able to honor Hartswick in such a manner. He wrote the legislation to create the Sergeant Adam Hartswick Interchange after hearing of his story in the local media.

Conklin says it was met with unanimous support in the legislature.

“Normally, these kinds of events of are held for someone who has lost their life,” Conklin says. “It’s an honor that everyone driving by will be reminded of Adam’s sacrifice, but it’s also an honor that Adam and his family will be able to see it.”

Sean Hartswick, Adam’s father, was north of the Great Mesa in Colorado last May when he got an international call at 2 a.m. He didn’t yet know that his son had been injured when an improvised explosive device blew up -- but a kind of “sixth sense” clicked on in his head when he saw the international number.

He jumped into his car, drove about 30 miles down the mountain until he had cell phone reception and listened to the voicemail Adam had left from the medical center in Kandahar, Afghanistan. As luck would have it, that’s when he called for the second time.

“He said he lost his legs right above the knee,” Sean Hartswick says. “I thought, ‘God, this is bad stuff.”

He saw his son about a week later at the Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington D.C., where Adam “looked really well, all things considered.” But more importantly, Sean Hartswick says his son never lost his positive attitude.

Adam Hartswick says that he always thought about his deployment to Afghanistan in black and white – he’d either come back alive, or he’d come back dead. In his mind, there was no in between.

“You never expect to become an amputee,” Hartswick says. “When that happens, you just have to adapt and keep going.”

That is Hartswick’s mantra: keep going. At Walter Reed, he says he was surrounded by people in similar situations, which helped him to avoid self-pity and look to the future.

It was there he learned not to say 'never quit,’ "because that has negative words in it.” Instead, he told himself: keep going, keep going, keep going.

And he has kept going. He plowed his way through surgeries and rehabilitation; he goes to the gym for a few hours each day; and he’s planning a future career in a special branch of the military. He can stay on his prosthetic legs for hours at a time. He can dance. He can drive.

“The support this community has given me is huge,” he says. “Moral, emotional, and even financial support.”

Hartswick says that he was touched by the outpouring of support from his hometown, but stresses there are other veterans who need help more than him. He asks anyone who wants to help him to consider donating to any number of local or international veteran’s organizations. 

“For most servicemen, when people call them heroes, they’ll tell you they’re not,” Hartswick says. “It’s the ones who didn’t make it back who are the heroes. We live for them.”

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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for StateCollege.com who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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