Friday, September 12, 2008

Donnie Hartman


Cyberspace is a strange world filled with unexpected and unknown thrills, excitement and, in many cases, disappointments.

I'm not a great surfer, either on the board, on the skate or on the net. I usually have a good idea of what I'm looking for and how to find it. Occasionally Google will throw up something unexpected, but I seldom flit about from site to site in classic surfing style.

I like to keep in touch with the home folks in Independence, Missouri by checking in on the Independence Examiner web site every so often. It's usually a five minute visit and a quick trawl through whatever seems interesting.

So, I was snooping about the other day and I saw one of their internet polls – you know the type – vote for your favourite local personality, singer, sports person. The Examiner were trying to find the most famous/best sports person ever from their readership. There were some nominations for professional baseball, football and other high-profile sports.

What caught my eye was the “blog” section at the bottom which asked readers to submit nominations. Someone had nominated Donald Hartman, who played basketball for Truman High School in the 1960's. I thought it odd at first that an “unknown” high school basketball player from the distant past would merit a mention in the most exalted company the Examiner readers could think of.

Then I remembered. I saw Donnie Hartman play basketball. I didn't know him personally, but we were only one year apart at school. He played basketball for Truman H.S. the year after the reorganisation of the Independence schools. He was,simply, one the best high school basketball players I ever saw.

Another light went on upstairs. I remembered that someone told me he was killed in Vietnam. Sure enough, if you Google “Donnie Hartman Vietnam “you will get:

There is a very nice tribute there from a pal who knew him in the Army. It's what you'd expect. What struck me was the unexpected.

He was in the 101st Airborne, and he was AUS. What that means is he was drafted. AUS stands for Army of the United States. If he was a volunteer, he would be RA (Regular Army) and not AUS. So, how did he get into the Airborne, which I believe was all volunteer? And, how did he get in the Army so soon? He was only 21. A note from his friend on his memorial page alludes to his basketball ability and tells that he went to college. Where? Why did he drop out? How did he end up in the Airborne? Who was his pal, Cliff? Who else remembers Donnie as an outstanding basketball player? Who, after all this time, remembered his talent so well as to nominate him as the best all-time Independence Examiner sports person? Does he still have family in Independence?

More questions that answers.

I remember Donnie Hartman. I wish I had known him better. Google can make you sad, though it is unintentional.

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