On Veterans Day, we celebrate veterans who made enormous sacrifices to uphold the US constitution. Today, we specifically honor Hardy Awadjie, a veteran who served nine years with the military and is now serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA with United Way. His story exemplifies national service, citizenship and the heart of AmeriCorps.
Hardy’s motivations for service go back to his youth in Liberia. Hardy was impressed with the Marines and Peace Corps volunteers in Liberia and thankful for their presence. As a kid, he thought, “If I ever go to America, I will join the US Army.”
In 1983, Hardy joined his sister in Germany and eventually worked for the US government there. Certain that he wanted to join the military, he moved to Washington and enlisted. He deployed to Saudi Arabia for Desert Storm. Hardy was “very proud to go. Twenty-eight people from my advanced training died from an Iraqi missile that hit our barracks. I was out on a mission. When we returned, I saw that the missile hit exactly where my cot was located. It was scary.”
Due to an injury sustained during training, Hardy has undergone six different back, knee, and shoulder surgeries. He was medically discharged in 1999. As a 70% disabled vet, he considers himself highly functioning. “If I let this get to me, it will really get me down. I try to stay busy. I find myself fully committed to this country again, but in a different capacity. This is my way of paying back America for what America gave me.”
In his AmeriCorps placement, Hardy is connecting the City of Kent’s refugee communities to resources and educating officials on their needs. Every year, Washington State welcomes more than 2,000 refugees, and the hardships of transitioning into a new country mean refugees are acutely vulnerable to poverty. Hardy’s empathy makes him invaluable to the City’s innovative efforts to support them: “I do not like to see people suffer. I have family members that lived in refugee camps in Africa, who drowned on makeshift rafts. As long as I have a breath in my body, even if I can just make one person’s life a little better, then I feel like I have done my job.”
Hardy, you have done your job! Thank you for your service to our country, for your efforts to make lives better here and across the world. We salute you!
Are you or someone you know looking to serve our country like Hardy? We’re currently recruiting AmeriCorps members to help build a community where people have homes, students graduate and families are financially stable. Join us! Open positions are on idealist.org now!