STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Adam Hartswick said he will be riding in the 4th Fest Parade of Heroes after all.
The Pine Grove Mills soldier who lost both legs to an explosion May 14 in Afghanistan said Tuesday that he will travel to State College on Thursday to participate in the Independence Day event.
Hartswick, 22, a State College Area High School graduate, is recovering and rehabilitating at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
“I just decided I was going to be healthy enough to do this,” he said Tuesday from Walter Reed.
The Parade of Heroes will honor 14 local individuals who were selected for their service to the community.
Patrick Knobloch, of the 4th Fest parade committee, said Hartswick’s family had communicated the soldier’s intention to ride in the parade.
“We expect him to be here and we’re hoping to see him here,” Knobloch said.
The parade will begin at 2 p.m. at the State College Municipal Building and move north on Allen Street. The route turns right at College Avenue (opposite the normal direction of traffic) and left onto Shortlidge Road, then follows East Pollock Road, Bigler Road and Curtin Road across campus to the Intramural Building.
The heroes include military veterans, EMTs and community volunteers.
“When you look down across this list of people, it’s pretty impressive,” Knobloch said.
Central PA 4th Fest activities will go on throughout the day outside Beaver Stadium, culminating in a huge fireworks display just after 9 p.m.
As recently as Friday, Hartswick said he would not be able to leave Walter Reed and return to his home community for the parade.
But he was given clearance by his doctors after a weekend that saw him spend parts of Saturday and Sunday away from the hospital with his parents, Morgen Hummel and Sean Hartswick.
“We realized that if he is allowed out for a full day, we could get him to State College and back for the parade,” Hummel said. “We asked his doctors for permission and they approved it.”
She added: “It’s going to be, as his dad called it, a ‘turn and burn.’ We’ll be bringing him up and then pretty much taking him straight back down.”
Hartswick, a combat medic, has undergone 16 surgical procedures for injuries he suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated as he was rushing to help soldiers who had fallen victim to an earlier bomb blast.
He said he got wind in early June that students and faculty at State High were putting together a Parade of Heroes nomination packet for him. That inspired him to do what he could to be in town for the event.
“I set my goal to do that, even though no one else thought I could do it,” Hartswick said.
Knobloch said Hartswick’s vehicle will be toward the front of the parade to allow him to finish early and get on the road back to Bethesda.
He said Girl Scouts will hand out American flags along the parade route ahead of the 14 heroes and other entries in the parade.
“I’m sure it will be an emotional moment for them to turn onto College Avenue and see all of those flags,” Knobloch said.
The procession will feature area fire departments, motorcycle groups, businesses, twirling teams and many other organizations.
“It will lift his spirits,” Hummel said. “It should be pretty powerful when people realize it’s him.”