Charles Hardin has the rough exterior of the Army man he is, but it belies what lurks barely beneath that surface. This Vietnam veteran, former helicopter pilot is quick to crumble to tears. And these days, there is plenty to provoke them.
Several months ago, Charles' son, Kevin, suffered near fatal injuries while serving in Iraq. The IED blast didn't end his life, but it required 32 surgeries, and did end a military career of which Kevin was proud, his father even more so.
"He wanted to follow in my footsteps," Charles said.
After Kevin's injury, Charles, his wife Terry, and two of their four sons moved from Florida to Eddystone at Terry's childhood home.
That's when a bad year became a nightmare.
Charles, now out of work and complaining of, but long ignoring discomfort, finally paid a visit to his doctor. The diagnosis was advanced colon cancer.
"I almost gave up. If it wasn't for my family, I probably would have," Charles said.
As if all that wasn't enough, things somehow got worse this past Sunday when Charles underwent another surgery in his long course of cancer treatments. His car full of Christmas presents was right outside. Then a thief broke into the car and stole all the presents.
"It's just amazing, right before Christmas, and everything hits all at once," Terry said.
The cost of fixing the car window consumed pretty much all cash the Hardins had leaving with them with nothing to replace the gifts.
Now, this family that has given so much, endured even more, has had yet one more thing stolen - Christmas morning
"Time to be together. But there won't be anything. But that's ok," Terry said.
Through tears, the fighting spirit of a fighting family is shown.
Do they want presents? Sure. But asked what they really want, they say hope. Hope for themselves and others enduring the same.
And through their loss, they've gained one thing - perspective, which can't be taken away.
"We have a roof over our head. We have healthy children. We've had 32 years together and we have so much to look forward to," Terry said.
To assist the Hardin family:
Visit cleaningforheroes.org and make a donation.