Jumping from airplanes
Those days are long gone for Army veteran
Saturday, August 17, 2013 5:00 AM
Madison native Robert Hyden used to jump from Army planes during World War II without a second thought.
Robert Hyden holds his hat to his chest and looks to a wreath placed in honor of his fellow service members who died in World War II. The wreath-laying ceremony was a part of a veterans display that also included a traveling exhibit with scaled-down versions of the Vietnam War Wall Memorial, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the John F. Kennedy grave site with the Eternal Flame. The displays are located on the lawn of the Clarksville Town Hall on Veterans Parkway through Sunday evening. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchieemail@example.com)
Today, just the idea of other service members jumping from planes gives him chills.
"Now it scares me to death to even look at them," Hyden said.
Born in Madison in 1922, Hyden joined the Army National Guard in 1939. At 17, he began jumping out of Army planes as part of his training.
"I chose it," he said of the Airborne Division. "I was in artillery to start with."
A few years after joining the military, Hyden's 13th Airborne Division was called to Europe after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. His unit missed the Normandy Invasion in 1944, but he still helped with the war efforts throughout Europe over the next six years.
"We were too scared to think about it," he said of his jumps with fellow members of the Airborne Division. "When I think of it now, I shudder."
In all, Hyden served nearly a decade in the U.S. Army, working his way up to the rank of corporal. After his years with the Army, he served with the Indiana National Guard where he served as a technician. He retired in 1980 as a chief warrant officer 4.
He is currently a member with the American Legion Post 35, where he also has served as chaplain with the Honor Guard.
Hyden, who now lives in Clarksville, was honored for his wartime service during a ceremony in Clarksville on Friday. The service was part of the Indiana Salute to Veterans event that honors soldiers and veterans by displaying replicas of the Vietnam Wall, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the John F. Kennedy gravesite and Eternal Flame.
Hyden gathered with several family members Friday to pay respects to fellow service members who died during World War II. He placed a wreath adorned with a World War II ribbon at the western edge of the memorial on the lawn of the Clarksville Town Hall on Veterans Parkway.
The memorials will be on display for visitors to view through Sunday afternoon.
Hyden said he felt honored to be part of the ceremony, but he recognizes there aren't too many veterans from his service days still living. The number of World War II veterans at memorial ceremonies decrease each year, organizers said, which is one of the reasons for this type of event - to remember all veterans for their service.
"It's great to see all the caps," Hyden said, noting the veterans' insignia at the event. "There's not many of us left."