In Rock Hill's Sunset Park neighborhood - and plenty of other neighborhoods - there are tears and heads shaking over the beating death of the man all knew as "Boot."
There is anger, and wanting answers, in his slaying.
Not because Boot, 65, was perfect. He had his run-ins with the law and booze and substance abuse, court records show and his family and closest friends concede.
Boot allowed people into his life, and his little house, that many say he probably should not have.
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But so long ago, Boot had to do - because he was forced - some of the most heinous acts anyone could think of. Because he was trained to do them and ordered to do them and had to do them - to survive.
Boot was drafted into the Army at 18 and sent to Vietnam, an infantryman. There he killed, so often, that anyone who knew him say he never could recover from so much bloodshed.
"This is cold-blooded, this is despicable, this is ridiculous and sick," said Willie Roach, who knew Boot since they were tiny kids, about the brutal beating death of Hardin inside his own home last week.
Roach was drafted to go to Vietnam around the same time as Boot after both graduated Emmett Scott High School in the mid-1960s.
"Boot Hardin was one word - a patriot," Roach said. "He gave up everything for his country. And believe this - no one man did this to Boot Hardin. He was a small guy. But he was a man's man. Tough."
Alexander Hardin was his real name, but even his family called him Boot. Just days after he was born in 1946, somebody in that Hardin family on Ogden Road called the little chap "Boot," so he was always Boot.
He was Boot in church and Boot in school and Boot in the Army.
Throughout that awful war, somehow, Boot survived. But he saw so much killing and death - and did so much killing and death. A devout Christian kid from Rock Hill could barely cope with it - and never forgot or escaped it.
He told his family and friends very little, but what he shared was horrific: Vietnamese kids, strapped with explosives, that Hardin and other soldiers had to shoot and kill on sight, or they would all have been blown up.
Willie Sawyer, another lifelong friend, saw Boot most days of his life the last 45 years. Sawyer is the barber who cut Boot's hair and gave him rides. Sawyer said the brutality that enveloped Hardin in Vietnam could never be escaped.
"Boot was my friend, a man's man all his life - but even though he never talked much about Vietnam, there has never been anybody who had post-traumatic stress like he had. He never got anything for it, either."
When Boot came back from Vietnam, where he was exposed to Agent Orange poison, he got married and bought a house and started to raise three sons.
He went to work at General Tire in Charlotte, where, for 23 years, he worked the second shift. He worked and worked, a crackerjack tire maker without peer.
"People used to say my father was the best in the whole plant," said the youngest of three Hardin sons, Di'Amond. "He was a good father, loving."
Boot owned new cars when it was rare for a black man to own a new car, Sawyer said. He owned his own home at age 20, when it was even rarer for such a young guy to have so much. He owned a fishing boat that he took his sons out on. He worked.
But Vietnam never left Boot. His kids recall nightmares, distress. The middle son, Dominique, said his father received treatment for the physical ailments he returned from the war with - breathing problems and more - but he did not seek mental health treatment.
A sister, Dot, said her brother was a decent, loving man, a good father, a good and devoted son. But men such as Boot did not ask for much, if any, help in dealing with war.
Hardin and his wife split many years ago, and he moved out. He left the tire company, took early retirement, after all those years working the second shift.
"The post-traumatic stress, the alcohol, maybe it took him away from his thoughts that he had to deal with," son Dominique Hardin said. "The military could have reached out to him more."
Over the years, Boot was arrested for drug possession, drunk driving, assault and more, State Law Enforcement Division records show. People went in and out of his house on Orr Drive, just a few doors down from the house at the corner where he grew up.
To look at the outside of that house is to wonder what happened to the man who lived there - and not just his bludgeoning death last week.
Boot flew two American flags in front of his house. Decals supporting the Army and press clippings of President Barack Obama and the death of Osama bin Laden were plastered on the outside walls of his house.
"My father was mild-mannered, a generous soul who grew a big garden every year and gave it all away to the neighbors," Dominique Hardin said. "He only got in trouble after stress."
The two younger Hardin sons do not offer any excuses for their father's life. Dominique Hardin said the good far outweighed the bad, the troubled - but the troubled part of Boot's life was part of the reality.
Both sons said their father liked company, loved to entertain. That seems to have been a part of his downfall.
Police have not offered any information about the status of the investigation into Hardin's death, other than to confirm what people in Sunset Park and around the city who knew Boot are distraught over: He was savagely beaten to death.
There are police reports - including just days before Hardin died - indicating sketchy characters came and went from the house, claiming money was lost, wills of dead people lost.
Boot was arrested for simple drug possession a year and half ago, on the heels of a stretch in jail for drunken driving, records show. Hardin served 90 days in jail after his probation was revoked, a spokesman for the state's probation department said.
Willie Roach, the lifelong friend who is a musician known as "Bluesman," said he has had his own struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder after Vietnam.
He recalled how, in Vietnam, as two convoys passed on a road, the convoys were halted by shouts.
"Boot Hardin stopped a hundred vehicles in that red dust, when he recognized me," Roach said. "We hugged and danced there, man. We grow up together, and the guy saw me on the other side of the world in that horrible nightmare. You don't forget a thing like that.
"I know what he had to do over there. He never got over it. Man, you don't get over that killin'. It stays with you your whole life."
Nobody who knew Boot Hardin will try to tell you he lived a life that was perfect. The last few years were rough, and he made some decisions that were not great by any measure.
But look at what he did all his life, and how he had to deal with the aftermath of Vietnam, say friends and family.
"He did the best he could," said his son Dominique.
Willie Sawyer, that friend for more than a half-century, said this about Boot:
"He was a man of his word. He was dependable, and he deserved better than to die like he did."