Fifty years on the job usually merits a gold watch.
But in the case of Theodore W. Hittner, 69, of Kresgeville, he was recently awarded a gold eagle for his 50 years. He had received the gold watch in recognition of his 40th year.
On April 28 Hittner received recognition for his half century of dedicated outstanding government service to his country, at an award ceremony held at the Tobyhanna Army Depot.
Hittner served 21 years, three months and 12 days in the United States Army, retiring on April 30, 1980 at the rank of Sergeant First Class E-7. He was then employed at Tobyhanna for 28 years, nine months and 17 days, retiring April 30, 2010.
The commanding officer at Tobyhanna, Col. Charles C. Gibson, presented Hittner with a gold eagle. Hittner is only the sixth person to attain the 50-year status at Tobyhanna and there will be a tree planted in his honor on the base. He also received certificates of appreciation and retirement, two gold pins, a Tobyhanna Army Depot mug, a pen and and a Commander's coin.
Hittner's supervisor, Terrance M. Hora, director of Systems Integration and Support, quoted Adlai Stevenson, former Illinois governor and American politician, saying it described Hittner: "A patriotism which is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime."
His gold eagle joins the bronze and crystal eagle he received at 45 years, the gold watch for his 40th, a Quasar clock at 35 and an American flag that flew over the capitol and Tobyhanna to mark his 30th year.
Hittner was born and raised in the Old Preachers Camp area of Towamensing Township. He attended the Kibler one-room school for his first three years, walking one mile each way because there were no school buses. The school was warmed with a pot belly stove. He attended the Greenzweig one-room school for fourth grade.
He graduated from Polk Township in 1958 in a class of 17 students – 11 boys and six girls. After working as a caddie at Indian Mountain Golf Course and on several farms in Polk Township, he enlisted in the Army in October of 1958.
Hittner received his basic training at Fort Dix, N.J. and specialized training in: automotive mechanic at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md.; track vehicle mechanic in Fort Knox, Ky.; vehicle repairman instructor (wheeled vehicles) in Fort Jackson, S.C.; and later, tracked vehicles and advanced automotive NCO course at Aberdeen.
Hittner proudly served with the 74th and 22nd Chemical Companies at Fort McClellan, Alabama; 3rd Battalion, 65th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, Cleveland, Ohio (Nike Hercules Missile Unit); 6th Battalion, 62nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, Dachau, Munich and Schaffenburg Germany (Hawk Missile Unit); Company B, 2nd Battalion, Track Vehicle School, Fort Knox, KY; 4th Battalion, 3rd Artillery, Fort Hood Texas (Self Propelled 105 mm howitzer Unit); and 1st Battalion, 40th Artillery, Dong Ha Vietnam (Self Propelled 105 MM howitzer Unit.
The 1st Battalion was one of the first mobile artillery units assigned to Vietnam where they supported Marine Corps infantry units operating in the DMZ area with North Vietnam.
He also served with the 14th Aviation Battalion, Chu Lai Vietnam, part of the 16th Combat Aviation Group, American Division; and 572nd Military Intelligence Detachment, 525 Military Intelligence Group NHA Trang, Vietnam.
Hittner served 34 months – three tours of duty – in Vietnam, traveling by land, sea and air. He said he didn't see any combat as a wheel and track mechanic but still doesn't like talking about the experience.
"I try not to look back. I look forward," he said.
He was then assigned to the headquarters and Headquarters Detachment 17th Training Battalion, Fort Jackson, S.C.; the 1st of the 31st Artillery Battalion, Camp Stanley in Korea (Honest John Rockets); Company B, Staff and Faculty Battalion, Ordnance School, Aberdeen Proving Grounds; and 1st Battalion, 48th Infantry Regiment (Mechanized) in Gelnhausen, Germany.
While in the Army, Hittner received a number of medals and badges, including Good Conduct Medal, 7th Award; National Defense Service Medal; Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (Korea); Korea Defense Service Medal; Vietnam Service Medal, 10 Battle Stars; Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal W/60 Devise; Meritorious Unit Citation, 3 Oak Leaf Clusters; Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross w/Palm; Expert Rifleman Badge; Sharpshooter Badge; 7 Service Stripes; 5 Overseas bars; letters of commendation and certificates of appreciation.
His military career afforded him an opportunity to see some of the world. Besides Korea, where he lived one year and Germany, where he lived for six years, he visited Australia, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
"I made my home wherever I was," he says.
One job he especially enjoyed in the service was being assigned to an honor guard for 1963's Miss America, Jacquelyn Mayer, during a nationally-televised homecoming parade in Sandusky, Ohio.
He says he has no regrets about the time he spent in the military, and doesn't miss it.
Hittner began the second part of his career at Tobyhanna Army Depot on July 14, 1981 as a sheet metal mechanics helper in the industrial support branch of the communications electronics division.
He also held a position as a tools and parts attendant in the Depot's printed wiring assembly and fiber optic cable fabrication areas and retired as a sheet metal worker in the sheet metal fabrication branch, systems integration and support directorate.
According to Hora, Hittner was instrumental in the depot's ability to produce critical counter IED systems installation kits for our warfighters in Iraq and Afghanistan. He traveled to Korea, Germany, Hawaii, Texas, Alabama, North Carolina – as well as other locations – in support of the warfighter on the Tacfire, Soft Top, Advance Field Artillery Tactical Data Systems (AFATDS) and mobile depot maintenance programs.
"Ted has maintained a high level of performance throughout his career as reflected in his many performance ratings, time off, on the spot, sick leave and certificates of appreciation and recognition," Hora said at the ceremony.
Hittner is the father of two sons, Theodoric, 34, and William, 32. Theodoric, currently a student at Penn State University studying biology, serves in the 7245th Installation Medical Support of the Army Reserves as an E-4 combat medic with the U.S. Army Hospital Detachment at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J.
William is an E-6 in the Army Reserves. He just returned from his second tour in Iraq with the 427th Transportation Company of Norristown, Pa.
Over the years, Hittner has been collecting Desert Shield/Desert Storm memorabilia and has a patch collection from the Iraq Freedom War and post cards.
He also collects old farm equipment advertisements (papers, pins, pencils, ribbons, feedbags, etc.) which he displays at local antique shows sponsored by the Pocono Old Tyme Farm Equipment Association, of which he is a member.
Hittner supports and is a member of several veterans organizations like the DAV, VFW, American Legion, Veterans of Vietnam War Inc., Vietnam Veterans of Carbon County and Military Retired Association.
His newest passion is researching his family's genealogy, from his great-great-great grandfather, who had 33 children from three wives, to the present. He is currently working on a Strohl family history.
Hittner has spent years compiling photos and information about Monroe and Carbon County soldiers who were either killed in Vietnam or who were missing in action or prisoners of war. That information has been made into two books, one for each county. It often meant knocking on people's doors to get the information.
"I'm still working on it," he said.
He also compiled a listing, with photographs and service record, of all the veterans of the Jerusalem Union Church of Trachsville for its 150th anniversary.
Now that he has retired, Hittner plans to work around the house, continue to support all veterans' associations and do more research on his family's history.
He says he never imagined that he would someday earn a gold eagle.
It now rests proudly on Hittner's shelf as he looks forward to the rest of his life.