Ron Mosbaugh - Keith Fiscus - Bob Close - Don Mosbaugh
To: Walt Cameron and Honor Flight of the Ozarks
From: Ronald Mosbaugh
Subject: Honor Flight June 23, 2015
I just wanted to take a few moments to thank Honor Flight of the Ozarks for their dedication and patriotism in honoring our veterans. You did a magnificent job in your preparation and organizing the events that we experienced on our June flight. The timing of this flight was also perfect, as this was the year that marked the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.
My twin brother, Don, and I were honored to be guardians for two WWII veterans. They are both members of our Purple Heart Chapter 821 of Joplin, Missouri. They are both heroes and I wanted nothing more than to travel with them to Washington, D.C., so they could see the World War II, Korean and Vietnam memorials. We also visited the Arlington National Cemetery, the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns, and what I was most impressed by, the Iwo Jima statue.
We met many outstanding patriots of all branches of the service. There is something about veterans--we are all brothers. We respect one another, and we are all proud of our American flag and what our country stands for.
The veteran I was a guardian with was Keith Fiscus. Keith joined the Army in 1943 and served as an intelligence officer in the 3rd Army. He worked directly under Gen. George Patton. On April 29, 1944, Keith was captured in Austria and was sent to Dachau concentration camp. He endured months of brutal interrogations at the hands of German SS soldiers; Keith was liberated in April 1945. The stories that Keith tells are amazing.
Don was a guardian with patriot Bob Close. Bob was drafted into the Army in 1942 and served as a commander and gunner on a Sherman tank with the 69th Armored Division in Italy and Germany. Bob spent 27 months on the front lines; Bob also has some very interesting stories to tell about his tour in Europe.
Yesterday, we were interviewed by Corey Riggs, from Mediacom Communications Corporation of Springfield, Missouri. As you know, Corey is doing a documentary on the Honor Flight that we participated in this past June. Corey asked us many questions on what we thought of our flight and what our favorite memorial was. For me, it was the Vietnam Wall. Although impressed by so many memorials and statues, the Vietnam Wall moved me the most. I told him about a friend of mine from Joplin. He was a Marine wounded in Vietnam and sent to Yokosuka, Japan. A few weeks later he was sent back to Vietnam to complete his tour. A month later he was killed on a patrol. When I visited the Vietnam Wall, I located his name. My legs instantly became limp and I went down. Little did I know that Corey was standing behind me and told me what he witnessed. I told him about my friend but didn’t tell him what I was actually thinking while I was sitting on the sidewalk in front of my friend’s name. This was a very emotional time for me.
I noticed there was not much talking from the public. Many people were speaking in a low tone, as if it were sacred ground. I think it will surprise you to know what I really felt and experienced. I would have mentioned this during the interview, but with the camera filming our responses, I did not want the public to see me crying. I don’t think I could have handled it and saved face. I will now tell you what I was actually thinking.
When I dropped to the sidewalk, instead of silence, I heard chaos. I heard M-16 rifles firing, grenades exploding, and helicopters flying overhead. I heard Marines screaming and moaning due to their injuries. I will never forget the image of Marine bodies lying on the battlefield. Seeing the names on the wall was the first close connection I experienced since leaving Vietnam. It got up close and personal. I filled out casualties cards for many of these warriors. I am 100 percent disabled and suffer from PTSD and Agent Orange; I live Vietnam on a daily basis. I was attached to Second Battalion First Marines Hotel Company. I was an 8404 field corpsman. While on the frontlines, and I treated over 200 Marines. While I was at the wall, many thoughts were going through my mind. I started to have flashbacks of the terror and trauma I endured during the thirteen months on the front lines. I thought of the Marine who was shot in the head while I was talking with him; I have often wondered why it wasn’t me that was shot. On another patrol I was in a rice paddy treating a Marine, and while I was treating him, a sniper shot him again. His name is on the wall. I have no doubt that bullet he took was meant for me; the Vietcong had bounties on corpsmen. The memory of Marines dying on the battlefield is beyond description; it has haunted me for over 48 years. I have never forgotten the last words of Marines who knew they were going to die, or who wished they would die, due to the seriousness of their injuries. After Corey left, I regretted not telling him what I actually felt, even though it would have been a very emotional interview.
For years I have suffered from survivor’s guilt. Why did I live and others did not? Why is my name not written on that wall? I have often thought that, if I were a better corpsman, some of those Marines on that wall would be alive today. However, I did the best I could. In speaking to other corpsman about this subject, I have found that they, too, suffered the same guilt. The “what if’s” will always be there. I need to keep reminding myself that yesterday is the past, tomorrow is the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.
In closing, our trip to Washington, D.C., was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. There is so much I could talk about, but I must end this letter. One of the events that overwhelmed me the most was the welcoming home celebration when we walked into the Springfield airport. Even though it was well after 10:00 p.m., there were about 1,500 to 2,000 people yelling, saluting, hugging, and thanking us for our service. The band was playing patriotic music, and it was crazy. I don’t mind telling you I cried as my emotions got the best of me. It made me think of my return from Vietnam. No one was at the Joplin airport to welcome me home. Forty-eight years later I finally got my welcoming home. Thank you, Honor Flight, for making that possible.
Ronald C. Mosbaugh Master Chief Corpsman (E-9)
USNR Retired 31 years