Asbury United Methodist Church, Cinnaminson, NJ
Sunday, March 26, 2023

Asbury Veteran: Rich Hatley



Rich Hatley was born in Camden, NJ and raised in Pennsauken, NJ where he attended Pennsauken High SRich in 1965chool and later worked at the US Steel Company. In 1966, at age 19, Rich was drafted by the US Army.   He reported to Ft. Dix, NJ, for one week and then to Ft. Hood, Texas, for eight weeks of Basic Training. After graduating from Basic Training he received two weeks Leave to come home and then was shipped back to Ft. Hood for eight more weeks of advanced training in the Infantry as a Fourth Class Specialist in light weapons---machine guns, rifles and hand guns. He spent a year at Fort Hood on Guard Duty, KP etc. until receiving orders for duty in Viet Nam.

Rich in 1965 -->



Following two more weeks of Leave in New Jersey,  Rich was sent to Oakland, California, and then to Cameron Bay, Vietnam, where he had one week of Jungle Training. He was then flown by helicopter to the “LZ” (Landing Zone) in Bongson, Viet Nam. He was there only a few days before he was engaged in combat.


One day he became separated from his platoon. It was extremely hot, 100+ degrees. Rich was very thirsty when he came upon a well. He knew most wells were contaminated and didn’t have any iodine pills to purify the water. He was going to drink the water anyway. As he was hiding behind a hooch (straw house) a soldier appeared and said, “Don’t drink that water—do you have pills?” Rich told him he didn’t. The soldier said, “Take my water, I don’t need it”, and handed him his canteen. Rich drank what little water was in the canteen. When he looked up the soldier had disappeared and he never saw him again. (Rich believes this was an angel sent because of a praying Mother at home.)


Another day when his platoon was entering a village on patrol, Rich stepped on an artillery round hooked to a booby trap. They heard a POP sound…but the round did not explode. Rich attributes this to the Lord and his mother’s prayers.


Rich recalls a day when he was involved in a Fire Fight and a soldier was hit in the stomach sustaining massive bleeding. His commander said, “Get him out of here.” Rich dragged him while he was bleeding and, working with another soldier, they stuffed his stomach wounds with towels. He stayed with the wounded soldier until he was put on the helicopter.


Rich still recalls vividly the day he and a good buddy were sent on a mission from the LZ (helicopter Landing Zone) down to the village below where shots were exchanged. When he returned to the LZ that same day, Rich learned that his buddy had been killed in the village…only his canteen cup with his name on it was in the bunker that they shared.


Rich’s Unit was dropped off in the mountains, the jungles, involved in Fire Fights, ambushes, surrounding villages and shooting grenades and M 16’s.    


September, 1967, Rich returned to base in Oakland, California, where he was discharged and served three years in the Army Reserve. He resumed working at US Steel. In 1972 Rich met Sweda and they were married in 1975. They live in Mt. Laurel, NJ,  have six children between them and are awaiting the birth of their tenth grandchild.