Adam Hartswick won’t be at Thursday’s 4th Fest Parade of Heroes in person, but he’ll be there in spirit.
The State College Area High School graduate, who lost both legs to a bomb blast May 14 in Afghanistan, was among 14 heroes announced Friday by the event committee. The parade will lead up to the full Central PA 4th Fest fireworks celebration that evening at Beaver Stadium.
The heroes list also includes a soldier currently in Afghanistan, two State High students who saved a man who had a heart attack at the school and the late Paul Mazza, founder of South Hills School of Business and a 4th Fest pioneer.
The nomination for Hartswick included 1,386 signatures of support from faculty and students at State High and other friends.
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“It’s blowing my mind how much support I’ve gotten,” Hartswick said Friday from his hospital room at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where he has had multiple surgeries and is recovering from his injuries through daily rehabilitation sessions.
“It’s really cool to be nominated as a hometown hero,” Hartswick said. “I’m really touched. I’m disappointed that I won’t be able to make it myself, but I’m still inpatient here.”
Skip Webster, marketing and communications chairman for 4th Fest and a board member for the event, said he was stunned when he saw Hartswick’s nomination.
“Obviously Adam has been going through a difficult time, losing his legs in Afghanistan, but I was blown away by the number of signatures,” Webster said. “Those 1,386 names came unsolicited and unbeknownst to us. Someone did that. It’s anonymous. But it’s pretty incredible.”
Hartswick won’t be the only wounded warrior honored. Sgt. Vincent Reynolds, a 2006 graduate of Bellefonte Area High School, lost a foot and much of a leg to an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in September.
In addition, honoree Spc. John Buchan, of State College, is serving as a fire support specialist in Afghanistan.
The parade will start at 2 p.m. in front of the State College Municipal Building. The route will take the parade through downtown State College and across campus to its conclusion at the Penn State Law School Building on Park Avenue.
The heroes will be honored in a ceremony sponsored by First National Bank and hosted by the State Theatre prior to the parade.
As the parade is beginning, the bells of Old Main and churches around town will be rung to honor the heroes and to celebrate Independence Day.
“That just kind of snow-balled through social networking,” Webster said. “Other towns are doing that, too. I just think that it’s really cool.”
Webster hopes to see the Parade of Heroes grow moving forward. In 2012, the parade’s first year, 16 individuals were nominated through the 4th Fest website.
“It should be hundreds of people who are heroes,” he said.
Hartswick, an Army medic, said he was pleased to be on a heroes list with State High students Hope Guthoff and Dustin Neumann, who used their CPR training to save a life on May 1.
Hartswick was injured by an IED blast while assisting fellow soldiers whose vehicle was struck by a bomb blast.
“It does take courage to do what they did,” he said. “It’s good to have the skills and the training, but if you don’t have the courage to act, you won’t be the one to save someone’s life. That is really impressive, especially for high school kids.”