In observance of Veterans Day, The Harlan Daily Enterprise is pleased to feature local veterans this week.
Harlan County has always given more than its share of men and women to military service, including former Cumberland mayor Carl Hatfield.
Hatfield, a long-time resident of Cumberland, joined the military at the age of 17.
“In 1951, I was 17 years of age,” said Hatfield. “I worked at Ball Brothers Food Market in Cumberland. My mom had signed for me to go into the service because both of my brothers (Dorsey and Raymond) were in the service at the time.”
Hatfield said he had to wait about two months to find a recruiter.
“I’ll never forget, it was Army Sgt. Robert Brown,” recalls Hatfield. “I enlisted with the recruiter. I didn’t even know which branch of the service I was going into. I took the test and I wound up in the Air Force.”
Hatfield said he found the Air Force offered a rewarding career.
“I stayed in the Air Force 22 years, and enjoyed every moment of it,” said Hatfield. “I entered the Air Force in the Military Police (MPs) … When I re-enlisted, I re-qualified and went into the personnel career field.”
Hatfield said he stayed in personnel for the next 18 years.
“I spent six years on recruiting duty,” said Hatfield. “I recruited first in Elizabethtown for three years. Then I made recruiter of the year in 1962 and they gave me my choice of assignment. So, I moved to Harlan in 1963.”
During his career, Hatfield served in Korea and Vietnam.
According to Hatfield, his role in both Korea and Vietnam was in a non-combat capacity. His brother Raymond Hatfield was killed in action in Korea.
“In 1952, I went to Korea and my brother got killed so my term was curtailed,” said Hatfield.
Hatfield spent seven months in Korea.
“I was in Air Police—guard duty, security—we patrolled the airfield,” said Hatfield.
After Korea, Hatfield said he was stationed in Japan until 1955.
Hatfield volunteered for service in Vietnam in 1967, where he worked in personnel.
“I came back to the United States after one year in Vietnam and they put me in recruiting service again in Somerset,” said Hatfield. “I stayed there for one year and I was reassigned to recruiting service headquarters.”
Hatfield retired from the Air Force having achieved the rank of master sergeant
“A lot of times I wish I’d remained in for 30 years,” said Hatfield.
Hatfield said military service would be beneficial to young people today.
“I highly recommend it,” said Hatfield. “Military service would be a great stepping stone for most kids coming out of high school.”
Hatfield mentioned he did not attend a Veterans Day program this year due to illness, but he does usually attend.
“It’s a great thing. People should have something they can be proud of especially with the way things are,” said Hatfield regarding Veterans Day. “I think most of the veterans are really stable and dependable type people. I think the country should rely on that type of person.”
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-573-4510, ext. 113, firstname.lastname@example.org