BIG SANDY, TX (KLTV) - Bill Hardwick joined the Army to fight and fight he did...in two wars and a motion picture.
"That's what I joined the Army for. I wanted to fight," Hardwick said.
He joined the Army two days after high school graduation. He was only 17, but eager to fight for his country.
"My dad was highly decorated in the first world war. I just wanted to follow in his footsteps," he said.
Bill was to get his chance. He was sent to the front lines of Korea as soon as he completed training.
"They put me in C Company and two or three days later we'd moved up to the front lines in the middle of the night," he remembered.
A full scale battle was going on when Hardwick arrived and he admits he was scared to death.
" I got lost right off the bat, got up on the front line, they turned left and I turned right," Hardwick recalled.
Hardwick eventually got back to his unit, just in time for the even heavier fighting.
"About the third or fourth night we was on line, they hit us with everything they had, I'd never seen so many North Koreans in my life. The machine gunner got hit and I was next to him so I grabbed the machine gun and took over the machine gun," Hardwick said.
Hardwick had never fired a machine gun before but it wasn't to be his last time. Although he says pistols were more effective in close combat.
"The enemy was in the trenches with us," he said.
Hardwick was awarded the Army commendation medal for fighting off the enemy when his partner's gun malfunctioned.
"They were going to shoot my partner," he said.
In 1954, Hardwick and his company got the dream assignment of being in a movie, To Hell and Back. Hardwick played the part of a German soldier in the film.
"They told me to get in a German uniform and that's what I did," he said.
Hardwick left the Army in 1955 but stayed in the Reserves. Three years later he re-enlisted and in 1967 volunteered to go to Vietnam. It was supposed to be a simple escort mission that Hardwick earned his bronze star.
"I was using my machine to shoot and at times I had to use my personal weapon because they was trying to get on the tank with me," Hardwick recalled.
Although Hardwick wasn't wounded, he lost much of his hearing in the battle and was assigned to military police, usually considered one of the safer jobs in the military, but not always so in Vietnam.
"We went down to get something and all of a sudden we were informed that two Vietcong were trying to take food from the people so we tracked them down and cornered them and shot one and captured one," Hardwick said.
After 20 plus years in the service, Bill Hardwick retired. From 1988 to 1996 he was police chief in Big Sandy, once again using his Army training to serve his country.
"I feel great, I did what I had to do for my country," Hardwick said.