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Hugh Gardner

2023 Honoree

U.S. Army

It was the winter of 1929, Mr. and Mrs. Jeter Gardner became the proud parents of their one and only baby boy, Hugh Gardner. Being an only child, they never expected him be drafted; but he was. Gardner went to the draft board and said he was not going to go. The draft board had something else in mind. While having a conversation on a pay-phone, the bus pulled up, two MP’s walked over, hung up the phone, and with hand-cuffed coercion, put him on the bus bound for          Ft. Riley, Kansas.

At the age of 21, Gardner found himself “volunteered” as an Airborne Ranger and had a unique training experience. While stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, he received specialized, special-ops jungle warfare training by the famous “Merrill’s Marauders” prior to his deployment to Korea attached to the 25th Infantry Regiment Division.

Like most soldiers serving at this time, you would usually find that most would carry one of two things in their fatigue’s shirt pocket: a Zippo liter or a small bible. In Gardner’s case it was both in the same pocket. While on the outpost line of the Chosin Reservoir, he took a hit in his left pocket. When he looked in his pocket, the bullet hit the lighter but did not penetrate the bible or Gardner.

The following year, Gardner became a member of the 45th Infantry Regiment Division. During the month-long Battle of Heartbreak Ridge, he was asked to look at the position and support of the Chinese. As the marines were at the front battling forward, Gardner noticed that the Chinese did not have any rear support. The following morning, he took 20 men with him and went to the rear where they wiped out the entire Chinese troop while they were sleeping.

As a Platoon Leader, he demonstrated outstanding knowledge of infantry tactics and superior resourcefulness that allowed him to lead his soldiers through many battles inflicting casualties on the enemy all the while utilizing thoughtful tactics to keep his soldiers alive. After fighting on the frontlines for 18 months, the 45th Division pulled out of Korea, bringing thousands home wounded, but knowing they lost hundreds killed in action; Gardner survived without injury. When asked what he thought about while in Korea, he answered: “I wanted to live through the war and lose as little men as