“117 Days” was released Jan. 12, exactly 50 years after co-author Mike Hardy, pictured on the cover at 19 years old, shipped off to Vietnam.
Mike Hardy recounts 1969 Vietnam
There are some stories out there that demand to be remembered. Even so, in just a generation or two, they can be lost if no one makes a point of keeping them alive.
Decades after Mike Hardy served in the Vietnam War, he realized he ought to do something to keep his little piece of history from being forgotten. It started as a project to tell his story to close friends and family, but Hardy ended up having his memoir published as “117 Days.”
Though Hardy now lives in Loveland with his wife, Marsha, they lived in Holyoke for some time. It played a large part in their lives, as is evidenced in the book, and Hardy is looking forward to returning to Holyoke for a book signing Saturday, Feb. 9, from 9 a.m.-noon at Inklings and More Bookstore. Also at the signing will be his eldest daughter, Marie Burghard, who co-authored “117 Days.”
Hardy graduated from Holyoke High School in May 1968. In August he was drafted, and on Jan. 12, 1969, he shipped off to Vietnam. He remembers it being Super Bowl Sunday — the one for which Joe Namath guaranteed a Jets victory.
That and everything else surrounding his departure show just how ordinary a life Hardy was living. He went to school, enjoyed hunting, worked as a gas jockey and was, by all accounts, a normal 19-year-old kid. Reflecting on it now, Hardy describes himself as an ordinary person thrust into an extraordinary situation.
“117 Days” is a firsthand account of the day-to-day routine of a soldier in the field. It may not be representative of every Vietnam experience — and Hardy acknowledges there were plenty of people who had it worse and plenty who had it easier — but it’s his story. And as he said himself, it’s an unusual one.
Local readers may find it especially interesting to see how Hardy’s small-town upbringing prepared him for combat. The majority of the soldiers around him, for example, were from the city and had little experience with guns. Everyday things like pheasant hunting gave him an advantage in Vietnam.
Hardy moved to Holyoke in 1960. His family owned Taylor’s Cafe and Taylor Made Bakery. His wife, Marsha, was born and raised in Holyoke by parents Wally and Dorothy Machamer. Some may remember that Wally was editor of The Holyoke Enterprise and Dorothy was the school secretary.
Burghard, who is an author and illustrator, lives with her family in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Hardy noted that the process of writing “117 Days” started four years ago with their first interview. Though it took more to write a book than he’d expected, the end result has been well-received by those who read it.
For more information about the book, visit www.117days.org.