Sgt. Adam Hartswick nearly paid the ultimate sacrifice when an improvised explosive device took his legs in Afghanistan in 2013.
For his heroism and courage, Hartswick, 23, was honored Thursday in his hometown of Pine Grove Mills with a dedication ceremony renaming a section of state Route 45 in his honor.
With local and state government officials standing by him, the Sergeant Adam Hartswick Interchange was christened. The renamed section of road runs from the intersection of state Route 26 to Business U.S. Route 322 in Boalsburg.
“It’s an honor to be recognized by the community,” Hartswick said, “and to have all the love and support.”
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The ceremony was opened by PennDOT representative Kevin Kline, followed by state Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Rush Township.
“What’s so special about this, is we do so many of these where the individual we’re honoring was killed in action,” Conklin said, “where we’re basically honoring their family or parents or wife.
“This is a treat for us that we actually have someone here who risked his life. It’s just an honor for myself to be part of this.”
Conklin asked Hartswick to join him at the lectern, giving the wounded warrior a chance to show how he moves on his new mechanical legs. He told Hartswick he had done his job well, becoming an inspiration to everyone in his community.
The representative is no stranger to loss through war. He told the crowd that his brother and brother-in-law came back from Vietnam on stretchers.
Hartswick was then joined by Sen. Jake Corman, R-Benner Township, who said the sergeant’s story — of joining the Army during a time of war, training to become a medic and suffering injuries while trying to help others — is an amazing one.
“Where most people rush away, people in the military rush in,” Corman said. “That’s a defining character of someone.”
Corman said that Hartswick has a loving community to support him, and this is just the beginning of the things that can be done to honor him.
“You were there for us when we needed you,” he said. “Now it’s our turn to be here when you need us.”
Hartswick thanked all the veterans who attended, explaining that whenever they served, they all have the same stories of hardship and inspiration.
He also reminded the crowd that men and women are still serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, that the conflict is not over. He asked everyone to remember those who serve and why they’re there.
“You tell the story,” he said, “and when they come back, you go up and hug them and shake their hand and find something specific to thank them for.”
Hartswick still lives at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland, where he has therapy every day.
“It gets easier, but then there’s always the next challenge you have to face,” he said, adding that his next challenge will be learning how to run on running blades. He also plans to participate in a 10-mile cycling event in Washington, D.C.
Sean Hartswick, Adam’s father and an active-duty Army master sergeant, said it’s good to do things like naming roads after wounded warriors and injured first responders.
“These are good reminders that these guys are on the line every day, stateside and overseas,” he said.