For Town and Country

Hillsborough is well-represented by military veterans

Monday, July 3, 2023
Headshots of the four featured town employees
Veterans on staff at the Town of Hillsborough include (clockwise from left) Meter Services Supervisor Tyrone Hodge and Hillsborough police officers Nevin Darden, Matt Lorenson and Matt Evans.

As the Fourth of July approaches, the Town of Hillsborough is proud to honor its own group of military veterans.

The municipality boasts at least eight employees who served in the U.S. Armed Forces, each with their own reasons for enlisting. For most, joining the military primarily was a matter of following in the footsteps of family. But there are tertiary justifications.

In pursuit of wrestling

Meter Services Supervisor Tyrone Hodge saw the military as a way to put himself in a better financial situation. A three-time state wrestling champion who graduated from Orange High School, Hodge enlisted to pay down college debt and to potentially wrestle for the U.S. Army.

Born in Geneva, New York, but raised in Hillsborough, Hodge did his training at the U.S. Army Airborne School at Fort Benning in Georgia. After training camp, he sought to be stationed somewhere close to his hometown.

“My orders came in,” Hodge said, “and I saw the letters ‘AK,’ and I thought, ‘Arkansas?’”

Not quite. He was stationed in Alaska. Still, he was able to travel to Colorado to try out for the Army wrestling team as part of the World Class Athlete Program, where he would join his brother, who was already a member. Hodge was told to put in his paperwork with his commanding officer. But when he was back in Alaska, he found the Army had other plans for him. He was deployed to Iraq where he spent the next 15 months as part of a fueling team.

It was his first time in another country, and he found the experience sometimes challenging.

“I’m an outdoors person,” he said. “I could survive in the woods forever. But going to a different country? There are lots of barriers, like language and culture.”

Hodge marveled at how locals could travel miles of flat terrain with no visible landmarks and yet somehow manage to get to their destination.

In training, Hodge fearlessly jumped out of planes. In Iraq, he felt a different kind of danger traveling with a platoon of drivers and fuelers, driving trucks loaded with fuel on roads and passages that often were targeted with improvised explosive devices.

“We would go out on a mission, and we would do ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’ to see who would have to drive,” Hodge said. “It was something else. Everybody adapted in their own way. Everybody had their own thing to do when it came to down to time to cope.”

After his tour in Iraq was finished, Hodge returned to the states to pursue his goal of wrestling for the Army, only to have his plan again foiled by deployment, this time to Afghanistan.

Once there, Hodge continued working as a fueler in a small forward operating base, providing fuel for a larger base. In all, Hodge, who has worked with the town for 12 years, spent nearly seven years in the U.S. military and achieved the rank of sergeant.

Transferable skills

Matt Evans, a patrol officer with the Hillsborough Police Department, joined the Army right out of high school. He had family who had served in the military, but that wasn’t the only reason he enlisted.

“I wanted to be a police officer, but I wasn’t old enough,” he said. “So, l joined the military until I was 21 years old and could go into law enforcement.”

Evans served for almost four years and was twice deployed to Afghanistan in the infantry. During his first tour, he received a Purple Heart for an injury he sustained from being hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. With his experience in the military followed so closely by his work as a police officer, Evans is easily able to draw comparisons between the two. In particular, the way a mission was carried out could resemble the way a police officer responds to a call. Both can be tense, dangerous and rely on coordination and teamwork.

“In the military, for most approaches to a situation, there’s not a lot of talking,” Evans said. “If there was someone we needed to get, let’s go get him, then we’re done. That’s our mission. With the Police Department, we’re talking with citizens. We’re trying to build a relationship and keep it open-ended. We’re talking a lot.”

Nevin Darden, another Army veteran with the Police Department, concurs.

“It's much more about verbal interactions and just getting to know people and making decisions,” he said. “We get a lot of discretion here, which is nice. You get to make a decision that’s best for everybody. In the military, it’s like, ‘You’re going to do this, and this is how you’re going to do it.’”

Darden, originally from Hickory, also enlisted right out of high school, following a path taken by family members and friends. Both of his grandfathers served in the military, with one in the Navy and the other in the Army as one of the first Green Berets.

He participated in the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps throughout high school and saw joining the Army as the next logical step. He was active stateside for four years before going to college and joining the National Guard until 2020.

Darden came to work in Hillsborough as a police officer after a friend vacationed here and told him about the town. His wife worked for the police department in Morrisville.

Incidentally, it was Darden who touted Hillsborough enough to lure Matt Lorenson to the Police Department.

Lorenson, who hails from Roseville, California, joined the Marines after graduating high school as a way to escape what he considered a path devoid of opportunity. He, too, had family who had served, including a grandfather who died in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Lorenson said he doesn’t often get back to California to visit his family, but he enjoys the life he’s formed in Hillsborough as a police officer, something he partially credits to his experience in the armed forces.

“In the military, you kind of learn to blame yourself for everything,” he said. “That sounds bad, but when you look to yourself as the only person to blame, you find that you're the only person who can solve whatever that problem may be. Things start getting better when you don't cast blame on other people. You realize that it's all on you, all on your choices and everything that you do.”

Evans said he gained leadership and decision-making skills, but the lesson he most values from his service in the military is one of patience.

“Especially with being a father. Patience absolutely helps,” he said.

Darden noted the military provided him with skills he often uses in his job and personal life, particularly in knowing how to work under stress.

“When you're in an environment and you have five other things going on, you’ve got to kind of prioritize. There are times when you have to pick and choose what needs to be done in the moment,” he said, adding that being organized and having a sense of duty also have helped him grow as an adult.

Even Hodge, who never truly got the opportunity to wrestle for the Army, looks back fondly at his time in the military.

“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” he said.