Sheldon Hartsfield is a man who has done it all.
He is a Marine veteran who took two tours during the Vietnam War, where his service is much recognized and appreciated. He is also a former Missouri AMVETS State Commander, as well as a current long-time member of the AMVETS Missouri Honor Guard.
And despite all of the amazing things he has done and accomplished, Hartsfield is a military veteran with a lot of humility and someone who is always looking to serve others.
“I joined the Marine Corps in 1968 and got out in ’77,” he said. “I did tour tours in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. From there I joined the Army National Guard, what we called the Marine retirement home. I did two tours in Vietnam while in the Corps and my Military Occupational Specialty was Communications and Signals. However, I only did that for a short time, as I spent a large percentage of my service as a personal security guard for several Navy Admirals.”
This is something that Hartsfield saw as a big honor and a special task, and he took it very seriously… just like everything else in his military career.
“From there, I traveled with these admirals and was around several high-ranking military officers and diplomats from other countries,” he said. “When I was discharged out of the Marine Corps and joined the Army National Guard, I served as an MP, doing a lot of the same things I did in the Marines.”
Not all military career paths are the same, and this is very well evidenced by Hartsfield. He started in the Marine Corps and finished his military career as a military policeman, and through it all he has certainly served this country more than well.
It should not be surprising, either, that Hartsfield became such a valued member of the US military. The military runs in his blood, and it is something that he was born to do.
“I’m the last of an unbroken line in my family of military service that spans 200 years,” Hartsfield said. “My father was a grounds crewman with the Tuskegee Airman, and his brothers served in World War II and the Korean War. My grandfather on my father’s side served in World War I, and my great-great-grandfather was a Buffalo Soldier. My brother and I both served in Vietnam. To say the military history in my family runs deep would be putting it lightly.”
The endless sacrifice and many decades of service the Hartsfield lineage has made and served is something that will always be remembered and appreciated.
Sheldon Hartsfield’s military sacrifice has gone far beyond the call of duty as well, as he is someone who has continued to make strides within the military community, particularly within the AMVETS community. He leads the AMVETS Department of Missouri’s Honor Guard efforts and is constantly working toward helping the Honor Guard be the best they can be.
“Missouri is one of AMVETS’ largest Honor Guard units, performing more than 300 funeral honors a year,” Hartsfield said. “It’s a very tough job. The loved ones of the veteran whose funeral you’re serving at deserve your best. We’re out there in scorching heat and blistering cold. But we do it anyway, because it’s the right thing to do. It’s not for the recognition or even to say that AMVETS provided the service. We do it because that veteran deserves to be buried with honor, and the family of that veteran should see that.”
This mindset is why Hartsfield is appreciated the way he is, and why AMVETS chose to honor him with the AMVETS Member of the Month recognition for the month of August. He has made everyone up the chain of command proud, and his consistent selflessness is exactly what AMVETS is all about.
Hartsfield does not stop there, either. He is an advocate for the mental healthcare of the millions of veterans across the United States, and he shares the same feeling as AMVETS when it comes to suicide prevention in the military veteran community.
“The biggest pressing issue is we’re losing 22 veterans a day due to suicide,” Hartsfield said. “Any veteran who has served in anything traumatic has what we call ‘demons’ that we fight. I had mine. It was through my participation in organizations like AMVETS that helped me fight my personal demons. It’s allowed me to go into schools and talk to kids and be personable. Some years ago, I wasn’t able to do that.”
Hartsfield knows what a struggle it can be to admit to battling these ‘demons,’ but he also knows that once you are able to admit to this, you can get the proper help you need to manage this. That is why he has become such a huge advocate for it himself, and he hopes that using his firsthand experience will help many others win the battle against these struggles.
Hartsfield is also encouraged by AMVETS’ current path to make veterans feel welcome within the organization and the use of camaraderie and fellowship to boost mental health. He knows that being able to talk through things with one another is immensely helpful, and he wants to make sure that every veteran has the interaction he needs.
“We trust ourselves,” Hartsfield said. “I am not the only person that feels the way that I feel. We are more comfortable amongst ourselves. If you just came back from Afghanistan and came into my post, we’re going to put our arms around you. We’re going to help you through it. You’re going to trust us, because we’ve been there and done that. No matter what era you served, we understand.”
Hartsfield’s ability to serve others is just scratching the surface, and AMVETS is looking forward to continuing to have him as such a valued member of their community. They are grateful for Harsfield’s service and they are grateful for all he brings to the table, and they are glad to have him around.
“Sheldon does a lot for our Missouri AMVETS, from serving as the State Commander years ago to serving on its Honor Guard and honoring the veterans of families as much as that Honor Guard does annually,” Greg Heun, AMVETS National Commander, said. “We couldn’t be more proud to have him as part of this organization.”
“Sheldon Hartsfield is a staple of the Missouri AMVETS family, as well as the organization as a whole,” Jan Brown, AMVETS Past National Commander, said. “His leadership with our Honor Guard is truly second to none, and he has helped shape them into a shining example of what a professional guard with military bearing should be.”