News: Neillsville - American Legion Honors Harder/Hediger ( 2016)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Harder, Poppe, Hediger, Bush

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 3/30/2016

American Legion to Honor Harder and Hediger (Military Service - 2016)

American Legion to Honor Harder and Hediger for Military Service

By Todd Schmidt

Rene Harder will be recognized for his military service by Neillsville American Legion Post 73 during a special recognition program Monday, April 4. (Contributed photos)

Neillsville American Legion Post 73 will be honoring two veterans during a recognition program Monday, April 4.

Social hour will start at 4:30 p.m. with a potluck meal and program following at 5:30 p.m. All family, friends, Legion members and the community are invited to attend.

Rene Harder and Fredrick “Fritz” Hediger are double related. Their parents immigrated to America from Switzerland.

Harder, graduated from Neillsville High School in 1949 and he joined the National Guard while in high school.

After two deferments of 6 months each because he was needed on the family farm, Harder was drafted in 1955. He traveled to Ft. Riley, KS, for basic training. While there, he checked out another barracks and called out if anyone from Wisconsin was there. Norman Poppe from Neillsville responded.

After basic training, Harder went to Ft. Leonard, MO, where his MOS was engineering. The training was building floating bridges to be deployed as fast as possible to let trucks pass over the water.

“I always carried my carbine on my back while I was working,” Harder recalled. “I also had a lot of training with different weaponry.”

After 9 months, Harder was transferred to Sandia Air Force Base in New Mexico, which was a secure atomic energy training base for high ranking officers from all the service branches. A two-star general was one of the commanding officers.

Harder’s Service Company transported the officers back and forth to school. He also hauled the Sandia Base basketball team to games in other areas.

The base rules included not saluting officers or wearing their insignia when they left the base. At those times, they also had to wear civilian clothes. Harder was discharged in 1957. He returned to help his dad on the family farm, which he took over in 1957.

He raised and milked 100 Guernsey cattle. He served as vice-president of the Guernsey Association for 2 years.

In 1982, he bought the Hughes property north of Neillsville, which was in need of much repair. “It took 6 years to make it livable,” Harder said.

In 1990, the farm was sold to his son. He and his wife, Joan, moved to the property north of Neillsville.

He and Joan were married in 1955. She passed away in 1992.

In 1994, he married Anita, who is from the country of Latvia.

They raised strawberries at first and then over 850 blueberry bushes and asparagus plants. They now have help caring for the blueberry and asparagus crops.

His grandson now lives on the farm. He and Anita bought a home in Neillsville.

Rene has four children: Paul, Grant, Philip and Michelle. The family includes 11 grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, two step children, four step-grandchildren and two step-great-grandchildren.

Fredrick “Fritz” Hediger will be recognized for his military service by Neillsville American Legion Post 73 during a special recognition program Monday, April 4. (Contributed photos)

Hediger joined the Air Force in 1955. He attended basic training at Lackland Air Force near San Antonio, TX.

Hediger was trained for aircraft control and warning at Kessler AF Base near Biloxi, MS. He was sent to Wakkanai, Japan, which is located on the northern tip of Japan, 30 miles from Sakhalin Island and 100 miles from Russia.

“We had cold winters and a lot of snow,” Hediger noted. “This was a radar base used mainly to track Russian aircraft.”

There only 50 to 75 airmen stationed there. Hediger had to wait about 75 days for security clearance, as his parents were born in Switzerland.

The work shift was 24 hours on and 4 days off. The guys, that had the 4 days off together would work at bulldozing an area for a playground for the school kids in the nearby town. Later, this was a training base for the Japanese.

After spending 18 months there, Hediger was transferred to Kirkland Air Force Base near West Mesa, NM. They tracked aircraft on radar and saw unidentified flying objects that were flying over 2,000 mph.

“Twenty years later, I found out it was Area 51,” Hediger said.

He was discharged in 1959. He returned to Neillsville to work for his dad at Hediger Dairy, where he drove semi and hauled milk.

Hediger helped with the building of the Clark County Courthouse for 2 years and then worked with the Clark County road crew. He retired in 1999. He now works for the Neillsville Country Club, mowing grass and keeping the golf carts in good shape.

Hediger suffered a major heart attack in 2013 and had five bypasses. He said he is doing well now.

He married Dixie Bush in 1955. They have seven children: Ricky, Larry, Randy, Ronnie, David, Becky and Tina. They are blessed with 15 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.



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