Gerry Hartmann Honored by the Bedford Legion Post He Personifies

February 13, 2023
Gerry Hartmann (front row, second from right), is with Paul McGrath (front row, right) and other members of the Bedford Legion Riders. Hartmann was honored on Sunday with a special plaque from Give2Those. Courtesy photo

When Gerry Hartmann received U.S. Air Force orders for his next assignment, he expected to be heading back to Grenier Field, site of the current airport south of Manchester, NH.

But the destination was Hanscom Field. And Hartmann’s reaction was, “Where the hell is Hanscom? Never heard of it.”

That was in 1964, and now he knows all about Hanscom. After 20 years of service, he retired, bought a house on Putnam Road, and ran a dental laboratory business, filling orders from more than two dozen dental offices with dentures and bridges.

A few years later, he joined American Legion Post 221 on The Great Road.

On Sunday, the Bedford Legion Riders, an affiliate of Post 221, honored Hartmann, 86, with a surprise recognition: a customized plaque of honor from the nonprofit organization Give2Those.

Give2Those, a Newton-based national charity, honors active military, veterans, Gold Star families, and first responders. 

The group’s vision statement says, “The brave response made by our military and first responders every single day is a reminder to Americans of the invaluable service these courageous men and women provide to our communities, our nation, and the world.”

“I like being around veterans,” Hartmann said in an interview. His continuing involvement with the post “keeps me going, as a volunteer.” He’s been through all the committees and chairs — commander, chaplain, executive board. “Now I help the younger guys understand what’s going on.”

Hartmann’s military career began in the early 1950s as a member of the Air Force Reserve while a 17-year-old student at Wayzata High School on Lake Minnetonka, MN. He joined the Air Force in 1954, motivated, he said, by “many World War II veterans in the family – my father, six uncles. And they all came back.”

Gerry Hartmann was honored with a special plaque from Give2Those at the American Legion on Sunday. Courtesy photo

After finishing basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, he was sent to another Texas installation, Gary AFB, where Air Force and Army troops trained as helicopter pilots and ground mechanics. Hartmann also had the opportunity to attend college classes nearby; the highlight, he said, was when he spotted the entertainer Elvis Presley through a skylight.

Hartmann ended up learning how to be a dental laboratory technician. “It’s not what I went into the Air Force for,” he acknowledged. “I wanted to be a flight engineer on a bomber.” But there was an issue with his vision.

At first, he planned to move to ground-based heavy equipment: bulldozers and cranes. But soon he discovered another mechanical option, a newer specialty: dental appliances. 

“There were many vacancies, and I didn’t know what it was all about until I got there,” Hartmann recounted.

Hartmann took his new skills to his next assignment: Nouasseur Air Force Base, near Casablanca, Morocco. One vivid memory from that duty station: a locust migration. 

“We had to stuff rags in the windows,” he remembered. 

A more pleasant experience was working as a “gofer” for medics during a Bob Hope extravaganza for the troops. He ended up holding the cue cards, which means he was stationed right underneath the camera.

Hartmann re-enlisted and returned to the States, serving at Mitchell AFB on Long Island, where he learned to work with titanium and partial dentures. His next assignment was New England, Grenier Field, and Hartmann bought a house trailer in Hooksett,

In the early 1960s, Hartmann spent four years at Hickham AFB in Hawaii, most of the time making dentures. He said he lived on a mountain overlooking Pearl Harbor, and watched as carriers loaded with helicopters passed through on their way to the escalating combat in Vietnam.

Then came a reassignment to the Northeast in 1964, and Hartmann expected to be back at Grenier. But the Air Force sent him to Hanscom Field, and he spent the next 10 years here before retiring.

Hartmann said he gravitated to Post 221 because his business was one of the sponsors of the Budmen in the old Bedford Men’s Softball League. “That’s where the players went after games,” he explained. 

And for four decades, he has personified the post, acclaiming the community contributions, from sponsoring Scouts to working with patients at the VA Hospital to parades and ceremonies.

Around 100 friends and admirers gathered at the Legion before Sunday’s Super Bowl for the award ceremony.

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