Our View | Human spirit is a hard thing to break

May 22, 2013 

Adam Hartswick lost his legs, but not his spirit.

The story of the combat medic from Pine Grove Mills and his remarkable family could have been a tragedy, but they would not allow that.

Despite stunning circumstances, theirs is an uplifting tale of triumph.

Hartswick was severely injured when he stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED) May 14 in Afghanistan.

He was rushing to help a convoy that had been hit by a bomb blast. Three soldiers were killed that day in Kandahar province. Hartswick survived, but lost both legs above the knee, as well as two fingers and part of a thumb.

Somehow, Hartswick managed to call his father, a 33-year military man, within an hour with the news. He also called his mother to tell her: “I lost my legs.”

From a hospital bed in Afghanistan, Adam told our Chris Rosenblum: “I know my mom’s a strong woman, so she could handle the news.”

Fortitude runs through this family group: Adam, his father Sean Hartswick, and his mother Morgen Hummel.

Adam had the presence of mind following the blast to help a platoon leader put tourniquets on his legs to stop the bleeding, saving his own life.

He pledged to recover, “get new legs,” dedicate himself to physical therapy and resume his career with the army. He had re-enlisted shortly before the attack.

He said he told his doctors: “The bad guys should have killed me when they had the chance, because I’m coming back.”

Adam’s parents, although divorced for many years, both vowed to be with their son throughout his recovery.

Adam will be moved to a hospital in Washington, D.C., and Sean Hartswick said he would get an apartment there to support his son during his rehabilitation.

Sean was taking wilderness guides training in Colorado when he got Adam’s called. He quickly hopped into a vehicle and drove back to Pennsylvania.

“We’ve got to be strong for Adam,” an emotional Sean said from the road. “You don’t have any choice.”

Hummel said Adam has “been my rock for years,” but knows she’ll need to take on that role at times.

Adam Hartswick had taken emergency training while at State College High. He volunteered with local EMS groups and decided he could fight for his country and save others at the same time.

Sean called his son “an American hero” whose only regret is that he couldn’t save more of the soldiers struck by that roadside bomb.

Hummel voiced the words we’re all feeling after hearing and reading the remarkable story of Adam Hartswick: “You’re a hell of a man, Adam.

“You’re my hero.”

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