After decades of military service, Ron Mosbaugh now serves his fellow veterans
More than a half century ago, young men still wet behind the ears, left their homes across America for a country thousands of miles away, with a culture as foreign as the moon, to fight a war they did not understand.
War is an ugly thing, testing the moral fiber of those finding themselves in conflict, especially down-home Missouri boys who on a difficult day may be confronted with a rabid animal while racoon hunting or a crazy cow on the farm.
Many came to understand the meaning of “becoming brothers in blood.” None of these young men came back the same… if they came back at all.
For Ron Mosbaugh, and his identical twin brother Don, serving in the military would be an honor and a duty they could fulfill for their nation. Both grew up in a poor, but solid Christian home full of boys. In fact, they were baptized in Shoal Creek by their uncle who was a pastor.
They grew up in the Joplin area most of their life until the family relocated to McDonald County, Mo., in 1960. Ron and Don were very athletic and became pretty popular in the Noel High School, Ron becoming senior class president and voted best athlete.
Ron recalls how they would trick teachers by trading places or switching basketball uniforms to throw off the opposing teams players.
Not serving in the military never really crossed their mind, especially since their older brothers represented other branches of the military. They both joined the Junior Navy Reserves in 1962 while they were still in high school. Although they both preferred to enlist in the Marines, nevertheless, their father would not allow them to join that branch.
As things would play out, Ron would become attached to a Marine unit in Vietnam: Second Battalion, First Marine Division, Hotel Company.
In 1966, both Ron and Don were trained to be Navy corpsman, since corpsman were in short supply and high demand. After basic training, the brothers spent 16-weeks in Hospital Corpsman School, after which Ron went on to Camp Pendleton for a very intensive five-week Field Medical Training.
It was there that he got his first view of what type of injuries he would encounter on the ground. However, nothing could prepare this Missouri son for what he would see, hear, smell and touch over the course of 13 months in Vietnam.
Don was stationed in Okinawa and would go on to Guerrilla Warfare School as an instructor teaching combat first aid and survival techniques to troops heading to Vietnam. But Ron would go on to an area 26 miles south of Da Nang, Vietnam where he would complete over 300 patrols.
Ron did not realize until after being in country that the Viet Cong placed bounties on the heads of corpsman.
Through it all, he knew that God must have had an angel watching over him, he was injured on three different occasions and was awarded two Purple Hearts. He did not accept the third Purple Heart because they would send him home and he knew that his brother would get sent in his place.
“If I had left the country, they would be sending Don to combat and that was the last thing I wanted,” Ron said with a grin. “To this very day I remind Don that he owes me big time.”
He would also go on to receive the Silver Star and Bronze Star medals for his bravery while caring for wounded and dying soldiers.
Ron went on to continue in the Navy Reserves and served in Iraq during Desert Storm in 1990 and 1991. However, returning home did not mean he left the war back in Asia. Like so many combat veterans, Ron found himself tormented by the sights and sounds of dying and injured soldiers.
“I didn’t make close relationships over there because you never knew who would make it back,” Ron said. “Even when I came home, I stayed emotionally at a safe distance, while carrying the raw emotions of war deep inside.”
Both brothers attended college and worked to live as normal lives as possible, yet for Ron, Vietnam resurfaced in his dreams nightly.
He would go on to serve as the Jasper County Coroner and then successfully run for Jasper County Clerk, where one day it all came crashing down around him and he knew he needed to confront his demons.
He checked himself into a seven-week program at the VA Medical facility in Topeka, Kan., for PTSD. There the staff psychologist told Ron to write down his PTSD experiences on paper.
“I told him I didn’t talk about that to my family or anyone else for that matter,” Ron continues. “This was my private world and I didn’t want to think about it.”
When he realized that they would send him home to fight those nightmares alone if he did not begin to journal his battlefield experiences, he complied.
What began as a tumultuous struggle to find the words for his pain, has become a successful outlet and writing mission to touch the lives of other veterans living with PTSD.
Today, Ron has written two books: Marine Down, Corpsman Up: Vietnam, and PTSD and Marine Down, Corpsman Up: PTSD, Then is Now – Military Short Stories.
Ron continues to reach out to service members and veterans through his books and he periodically writes a column in the Joplin Globe. And as a side note to the brothers commitment to military service; they are thought to be the only identical twins to ever reach the rank of E-9, Master Chief Corpsman in the United States Navy.