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‘I Won’t Abandon You’: Veteran John Hedley’s Life Motto

photo of John Hedley holding his book Saddle Up.
John Hedley

On his desk sits a bumper sticker that reads “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.” For John Hedley this statement is personal, not political. He vividly remembers coming home from Vietnam to angry crowds who branded him and his fellow service members “potheads, murderers and nutjobs.” His solution? Showing first-hand support for the next generation of soldiers.

picture of the book Saddle Up
Credit A15 Publishing
As Hedley began to lose buddies and their families began asking questions, this project started as a gift to them. Most never speak of what happened at war, this was a way of preserving their legacy for their families.


He once flew to Hawaii with members of his old platoon donned in full uniform down to their bright red scarves. As the current members of his infantry were headed off to war in Iraq, the old timers placed their red scarves around the necks of the new soldiers.

For the past decade Hedley has also been facilitating gatherings at a Mooresville coffee shop, which has become a place of solace to many veterans.

What began as a veteran-friendly place to hang out has become a non-profit organization that provides resources for veterans in need. He holds a firm, lifelong commitment to make sure he lives by the words on that bumper sticker. John Hedley joins Frank Stasio to discuss his life before and after Vietnam. Hedley says the pictures painted about the men who fought in Vietnam do not reflect what he lived.  In his book, “Saddle Up: The Story of a Red Scarf” (A15 Publishing/2017), he shares never told stories of the brothers he fought beside in the jungles of Southeast Asia.

Dana is an award-winning producer who began as a personality at Rock 92. Once she started creating content for morning shows, she developed a love for producing. Dana has written and produced for local and syndicated commercial radio for over a decade. WUNC is her debut into public radio and she’s excited to tell deeper, richer stories.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
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