Kenneth L. Hardin: You never leave a military brother or sister behind

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 19, 2024

By Kenneth L. Hardin

Three years ago, I had over 700 contacts in my cell phone and had no problem answering it up until 3 am. Today, I’ve whittled it down to 71. I typically don’t answer numbers in which names don’t show up and lately I’ve enjoyed the feature on my iPhone where you can send those calls directly to voicemail without the phone ringing. This option wasn’t activated last week and I’m glad I responded to the voicemail from the Buffalo, N.Y., number I didn’t recognize.

The phone rang on my day off when I tried to be as lazy as humanly possible, but I expended enough energy to lift the phone only to sit it back down and focus on what was truly important in front of me — Netflix. When the message alert chimed, I made a rare move and listened to it. A very distinctive, almost radio announcer-like voice introduced himself as Paul Lawrence and began explaining why he called. He said he was calling on behalf of a Navy veteran friend, who was diagnosed with cancer four weeks earlier and his condition had quickly deteriorated to the point he was in our local Hospice facility. His friend wasn’t expected to live much longer. He said that in going through his friend’s wallet, my Veterans Social Center business card was inside. He went on to share that he and the veteran’s wife, a Rowan County native, were having difficulty arranging end of life services and navigating the veteran’s benefits process and needed my help.

Netflix was no longer a priority and I jumped into help mode because one positive trait I learned from the military was you never turn your back on a brother or sister in need and you never leave them behind. Through our veteran’s facility, we’ve purchased furniture and appliances for veterans, paid past-due utilities, given out fast food gift cards to homeless veterans, given free clothing, shoes, coats, toiletries, socks and other personal items, and have paid for the burial costs for a few veterans. We don’t have a lot of financial resources, but we make a way when there’s a legitimate veteran’s need. As I listened to the friend explain what they needed, I began formulating a plan of how we would ensure our brother received the end-of-life honor and recognition he deserved and so his wife could focus on grieving her loss. I assured him that our organization would do the heavy lifting so his wife, Sandra, wouldn’t have to.

In this social media-famous era, we tend to use the word “hero’ too often in describing unremarkable people who make mediocre accomplishments. As I read about Chief Petty Officer Richard Kidd, this didn’t apply. He was not only a skilled player in the military game, but he excelled at every facet of it. He achieved the rank of a senior non-commissioned Naval officer, but also put in work to achieve the highest level of honor and respect. In talking with his longtime friend, Paul, I learned that the highly regarded veteran was pulled from the active reserves in 2005 and began a remarkable career where he was a critical member of Naval Coastal Warfare Group Training and Assessments Teams. They were responsible for assessing, training and certifying inshore boat units, mobile security teams, Navy Raven Flyaway Special Security Teams, Convoy Security Teams, Shipboard Security Teams, Mobile Radar and Surveillance Teams, as well The Command, Control and Communications Teams.

In 2010, he was pinned as chief and completed his “hell week” with the famed Navy SEALS. He was slated to be a communications officer assigned to SEAL Team 18, which is the Navy Reserve Seal Team situated on the east coast. While serving, he received  his bachelor’s and first master’s degrees and later followed it up with a second master’s in cybersecurity. After his honorable discharge, Richard used that education and technical expertise as a U.S. contractor project manager serving in Iraq, where he worked at the Tikrit Air Base. He served alongside contractors from other U.S. military backgrounds, the British SAS, Nepalese Special Military  and Ugandan Special Forces. A year later, he went to work for General Dynamics, where he played an active role in the development and construction of the Navy’s small surface vessels and in the development of the Navy’s drone technology. There is so much more to this remarkable brother’s military and service résumé, but this paints the picture of why he deserves the hero title.

After listening to all their needs, I pulled together a call list of resources and people who could step in and assist. The list of people I reached out to is long but there are a few individuals and businesses I directed them to or reached out to myself that I want to acknowledge and thank on behalf of the family. First, Rowan County Commissioner Craig Pierce, who is a wealth of information and possesses a strong willingness to assist veterans. I appreciate the Salisbury VA National Cemetery staff, the Rowan County Veterans Services Office, Powles Staton Funeral Home, ABC Executive Director Terry Osborne, Raleigh ALE Agent Jerry Dean, City Foods Catering owner Shaina Newton, the local motels and finally the wonderful people at the Hudson-Tatum-Miller VFW Post 3006.

Sadly, CPO Kidd died within a week of my receiving the call, only five weeks after his cancer diagnosis. His graveside service will be held Monday, May 20, at 2 p.m. at the Salisbury VA National Cemetery. I ask all who can attend to please come out. I don’t know why he had my business card in his wallet, but I’m so happy my brother did.

Kenneth L. (Kenny) Hardin is the founder of the Veterans Social Center here in Salisbury.