The three-war veteran was asked how many people he had saved working as a medic in multiple wars on a 2015 trip to war monuments in the nation’s capital.
Robert Hyatt answered the question with tears in his eyes. “Not enough,” he uttered.
His answer demonstrated the kind of man Robert Hyatt was, in a life punctuated with service and dedication as a veteran of three wars, family friend John Wales said.
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Hyatt, 91, died Dec. 24, after a three-year battle with cancer. Doctors discovered prostate cancer in 2013, and the cancer had spread to 80 percent of his body by his death, said David Hyatt, his son.
Robert Hyatt served as an Army medic in World War II and the Korean War. He reenlisted as a Marine for the Vietnam War, where he was credited with stopping an enemy bomb from exploding at an Air Force base.
Had age not been a factor, he would have served during Operation Desert Storm too, David Hyatt said.
“He never thought anything about it; he was just doing what he was asked to do,” he said. “As far as he was concerned, he was just doing his job.”
In 2013, Robert Hyatt was diagnosed with cancer, and doctors told him that he had about six months to live. Hyatt didn’t believe him, Wales said.
“He told the doctors that he would decide,” he said “Being an old soldier, he just doesn’t go that easy.”
Family and friends decided they wanted his last years to be some of the best.
“He actually enjoyed himself; we made sure of it,” David Hyatt said.
Wales began making calls to tell people about Hyatt.
Gov. Mike Pence heard and awarded him with a Sagamore of the Wabash, the highest civilian honor. The Indiana attorney general gave him the Distinguished Hoosier Award. Both the Indiana House and Senate passed resolutions to honor him. March 17, 2015 was dubbed “Robert Hyatt Day,” by Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness.
And in the summer of 2015, he met another three-war veteran, Virgil Hudnall, and they talked of their incredible and unique connection of both having served in three wars.
“Dad just ate it up,” David Hyatt said.
Once news of his death began spreading, the family knew they would need big plans to honor the veteran, Wales said.
Family and close friends made the decision to have a service at the Franklin United Methodist Community for friends who shared his home. A later service was planned at the Franklin Community Middle School gym, where more people could come and pay their respects. Nearly 1,000 mourners attended his funeral at the middle school.
“I never dreamed any of this, I thought were going to have a small funeral,” David Hyatt said.
Hyatt outlived most of his friends and a lot of his family.
Surviving family wanted to make sure that community members could attend the funeral and give a proper goodbye to the man who had served the country so completely and valiantly, Wales said.
“We wanted to make sure he had a true hero send-off,” he said.