Alva Review-Courier -

Hardtner's Fourth of July Veterans Service will feature Vietnam veteran Bob Drake

• Thursday at 11 a.m., at Hardtner's Methodist Church, after the Fourth of July 10 a.m. parade


Although Hardtner, Kansas, is the epitome of rural America, the small town has a Fourth of July celebration bursting with as much American pride as you see exploding over large bodies of water in the Macy's and Boston fireworks shows.

“Be proud to be an American,” Hardtner Chamber of Commerce Fourth of July organizer Syd Sterling said. “South Africans from the Lohmann harvest crew were excited to help me hang our huge flag.”

Besides an always red, white and blue morning parade and a park full of games and activities throughout the day, a highlight is always the Veterans Program at Hardtner's Methodist Church at 11 a.m.

This year Vietnam veteran Bob Drake of Kiowa will discuss his service and the privilege of traveling to Washington D.C., on one of the Kansas Honor Guard Flight trips in the last few years.

A look back at an article this reporter wrote about Drake 40 years after his service in Vietnam in 1968 found a detailed account of his time there, including often harrowing experiences such as during the infamous TET Offensive.

“They attacked us from across the road,” Drake recalled. “I’ll never forget when that firing got started. I was thinking there can’t be this many damn weapons in one area. Then I felt rage – it just envelopes you. This was not just regular gunfire you get used to hearing. This was a steady roar. I thought I was going to die and then I got really mad and decided to shoot as many as I could using my M-16.”

A native of Alva where he graduated in 1966, Drake volunteered for the army although the draft was in effect. He underwent boot camp in Missouri and Advanced Individual Training in Massachusetts.

Drake’s test scores were high enough he landed a job in security. He worked in a branch of intelligence called the Army Security Agency. As a security analyst, his job was listening to telephone and radio conversations and reporting to higher ranks such as generals and colonels. They would deal with the information as they saw fit to keep top U.S. security information from falling into the wrong hands.

“I was lucky I was not with the infantry in the rice patties with leaches like some guys. I was in that just a little bit at first,” Drake said. He remembers traipsing through the jungle and villages once with the infantry. He has many stories to tell.

Longtime citizens of Kiowa, Drake and Sandra have now celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. They have four children, 14 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Hardtner's Newest Attractions

Cornhole board games are seen at about every outdoor event these days. Hardtner has a Cornhole Board Game Tournament planned that starts in Achenbach Memorial Park at 1 p.m. This is the first-ever single elimination cornhole tournament. Teams of two will go head to head. Round by round teams will be eliminated until the best team is left standing. The winning team will take home a cash prize and a set of cornhole boards. Second and third place will receive a set of cornhole boards. Entry fee will be $50 a team with proceeds going to the Hardtner Chamber of Commerce to help fund future Independence Day Celebrations. For questions or to enter a team call Kelly Goesvner at 620-213-2205.

A revived attraction is the golf hole-in-one contest. It's under the direction of Jarred Tyree and sponsors Mike and Brenda Hood Choice Insurance Group and Schuessler Real Estate. The Hole-in-One Contest qualifier will be from 4 to 7 p.m. A Calcutta will be held for the top 10 qualifiers. Ten qualifiers will have five balls each. The Grand Prize will be $43,500 if you hit a hole in one during the final. Payout will be made to first, second and third from the pot and first, second and third from the Calcutta. If you have any questions call Jarred Tyree at 580-829-3199.

Watch for all your favorite games (like turtle races) and activities in the park. Cool off in the Achenbach Swimming Pool. Then settle in for the White Elephant Auction in the park at 5 p.m. Pit beef BBQ sandwiches will be served (first one free than $1 for the next). Bundles of leftover beef are sold at the auction. Items are still needed for the auction.

The day culminates with the explosion of fireworks over the old Achenbach Hospital lawn at 10.


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