The Decision to Live: An Army Medic’s Legacy of Service
“We are going to get our brothers out of here.”
Those are the last words that Sgt. Adam Hartswick heard his friend and team leader Jeff say during the middle of an ambush on May 14, 2013 in Afghanistan.
Only moments before, Adam, serving as the senior medic, had received the call that his unit was under attack. The ambush had already taken the life of a fellow soldier and wounded several others as Adam arrived and provided medical care, joining the mission alongside his courageous unit. But as Jeff swept the area, he stepped on an IED and was instantly killed. Adam ran toward his friend, stepping on an additional IED, and as he lay injured, Adam knew that this would be the moment when he lived or died.
And Adam said, “I made the decision to live.”
For this young Soldier, the heroic choice to fight, to serve, and to sacrifice for our country were decisions made not only by Adam but by his forefathers, as well.
Both of his grandfathers fought in World War II — one on the beaches at Normandy and the other in the South Pacific —, and his father was in the Army for thirty-seven years. Inspired by their legacies, five-year-old Adam dreamed of one day joining the military and at seventeen, he enlisted in the Army’s delayed entry program and trained to become a combat medic. His unique talent for emergency medicine landed him in the top 10% of his graduating class, and at twenty-two, Adam became a senior medic, managing the medical well-being of the nearly one hundred soldiers during his deployment to Afghanistan.
And just five months later was when Adam’s unit was ambushed, resulting in the tragic deaths of a fellow soldier and their team leader Jeff, and leaving Adam fighting for his life after sustaining severe injuries from an IED.
But having the made the decision to live, he soon faithfully honored his team leader’s words, wrenched a tourniquet on his own leg, and together with his unit, awaited rescue. Once medevac’d from the scene and stabilized at the hospital, Adam was honored for his tremendous sacrifice, and awarded the Purple Heart and a promotion to Sergeant during a visit from General Mark Milley.
Six days after the explosion, just after Adam arrived at Walter Reed Military Medical Hospital, Adam met Stephanie, his future case manager at The Fund. Immediately, Stephanie and The Fund offered their unwavering support.
“Stephanie and The Fund made my life so much easier at the hospital,” Adam said, “Whatever I needed, it was always a ‘yes’.”
From providing Adam’s parents with gas cards to visit their son and giving Adam an Xbox to help pass the hours spent in his hospital room, Stephanie was there every step of his recovery, usually with gift bags in hand to lift his spirits. Adam said, “I’ve always admired how personal The Fund is. They see a need and they fill it."
Eight years later, Adam remains a treasured member of The Fund family. During the coronavirus pandemic, Stephanie sent meals to Adam and his wife Sara, and The Fund even helped with the purchase of Adam and Sara’s first home in Pennsylvania. Alongside their three cats, German Shepherd, and bunny, Adam and Sara love working in their new garden, and Adam also has a passion for giving back to his community. For years, Adam has mentored a fellow amputee, and he’s also starting his own charity to provide mentors for disabled or traumatized youth.
As Adam continues to support and care for those around him, The Fund will always be inspired by his unwavering dedication to our country, the heroism shown in his decision to live, and his continuing legacy of service.