Leigh and Mike Harting had to play a little joke on dear, old dad to keep their Veterans Day plans a secret.
“We actual told him that our middle daughter was writing a story for school on Vietnam,” joked Mike. “He’s old.”
The Hartings, who own 3 Daughters Brewing in St. Petersburg, tricked Bruce Harting into writing down his experience during the Vietnam War in his own words.
It was all for the plan they brewed up months before. 3 Daughters wanted to find a way to honor veterans with their beer cans. The business is just shy of two years old and they wanted to make an impact on veterans’ lives somehow.
“Every veteran has an amazing personal story,” said Leigh. “We want to be able to bring those to life and say thank you to our veterans.”
In 1966, Bruce was shot while serving in the war. He came back to America, recovered then returned to Vietnam for a second tour of duty as a military police officer.
When it came time to honor a veteran on a beer can, the family didn’t have to look very far for inspiration.
“Being able to recognize your father is that special of an experience,” said Mike.
Bruce never knew. When he saw the can for the first time, he was overcome with emotion. The front is a rendition of a painting his fellow service members painted for him 50 years ago. It depicts the scene on the battlefield where two men carried Bruce down a mountain on a stretcher for six hours to get to a medical helicopter. The painting was hanging in Bruce’s office. The trick? Mike and Leigh told him one of his granddaughters needed the painting for a school project.
He never knew it’d turn into a beer project.
“I had no idea,” he said. “I read the can and it’s good. I delivers the message that we all serve.”
The back of the can reads, “Our Grandfather, Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Bruce Wells Harting earned his Purple Heart the morning of April 5, 1966 in Dak To, Vietnam on the Laotian border while serving with 3rd Platoon, C Company, 7th Calvary, 1st Calvary Division. This is our hero.”
The can is part of a series that the company will continue each year, where a new veteran’s story will be shared on the back of a can around the time of the holiday. Better yet, the sales from the beer cans will benefit the Navy Seals Foundation.
“It’s an incredible foundation,” said Mike. “The neat story the approach that the team took, to take one veteran and let’s make this a very personalized can.”
The Tango Yankee — military shorthand for thank you — beer will be available at 60 Winn-Dixie locations in St. Petersburg, Tampa and Sarasota beginning Nov. 9, as well as select specialty stores in the Tampa Bay area.