Marine Corps puts veteran on path to success

Local News

EDGAR COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — Some people spend their career in the military. Others use their career to give back to the military; and that’s exactly what one man from Central Illinois is doing.

26-year-old Austin Hardas spent four years in the Marine Corps, went on two infantry tours and is now a father-of-three. It all started with a plan he formed while growing up in Chrisman.

“My dad was in the Navy, he was active for four years … He stayed in the reserves for almost 20 years … I wanted to follow in his footsteps, join the military,” says Hardas. He joined the Marine Corps after high school and spent seven months in Afghanistan.

“We were basically doing local security patrols and working with the Afghan National Army — basically just provide security at a nearby village. Trying to help them take over our efforts in keeping the Taliban at tabs and decreasing their area of operations,” he says.

Hardas got married when he came home. Not long after that, he started a tour in Iraq.

“We were providing security for a specific unit that was training the local nationals to go fight ISIS. Due to the political environment, we were not allowed to leave the wire, like the base whatsoever … We were getting mortared a lot. So we would be standing on post, or training the local nationals and we’d have incoming rounds.”

Hardas was in a tough spot — not only physically, but mentally. His wife was at home, about to give birth to their first child.

“It’s like if I die, it’s not just me. Got a wife, a baby that’s gonna be here soon,” Hardas says that was constantly on his mind.

Everything changed when his first child was born. Until then, Hardas had planned to spend his career in the military but that didn’t seem possible anymore.

“More power to all people who have a family and do 20 years, but not me. I couldn’t do it mentally, couldn’t put my family through that. Being apart of an infantry unit, you come home, do 12 months training cycle — get deployed for 6 to 9 months, and then just over and over. 12 month training cycle, gone again for 6 to 9 months. It’s like, I don’t wanna be out of my kids lives 45 percent of the time.”

Hardas decided to come home. He earned an accounting degree at the U of I and with help from the Chez Veterans Center on campus, landed a job at Boeing. He wanted to work for a company that supports the military.

“I actually help engineers or program managers schedule the production of various aircraft or modifications to aircraft … It brings me joy to know that my efforts are helping the people that are in Afghanistan and Iraq right now.”

Hardas has good memories of his time serving. He had some pushback when he first joined from people who thought he should go straight from high school to college … but he wouldn’t change anything. He also has some advice for anyone who’s thinking of joining.

“It was just too good of an opportunity to pass up and I knew I would regret it for the rest of my life if I never did it … Don’t listen to the people who say, ‘the military 100 percent isn’t for you kid’ — I mean, there’s a job in the military for everybody.”

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