Medal of Honor winner a humble hero

Shortly after I arrived at Snowhill Elementary in Springfield for the school’s Veterans Day program on Monday, my “cousin” Dave Bauer told me about someone he wanted me to meet. Little did I know I was about to speak with a true American hero, Medal of Honor winner Ronald Rosser of Roseville, Ohio.

I don’t use the term “hero” loosely, and Rosser certainly deserves to be placed in that category. But because he is as humble as he is engaging, he does not consider himself a hero.

In fact, he told the more than 500 students, staff, fellow veterans and visitors assembled for the program that “I’m not a brave man. I’m a soldier and I do what I can.” He continued, “I haven’t done anything that any of these other men haven’t done.”

But his record tells a different story. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on January 12, 1952, while serving as a forward observer during the Korean War. He is officially credited with killing 13 enemy combatents who were in the first tench he charged on “Heartbreak Ridge.”

But Rosser says it was “over 50” during the battle. Armed with a rifle and a grenade, he made a total of three charges. After all of his unit’s superior officers were killed, Rosser, who held the rank of corporal, assumed command. He told us he was wounded twice, and at one point, dug a bullet from his leg with a trench knife.

Rosser was in the Army from 1946 until 1968. He says he wanted to serve in Vietnam, “but they wouldn’t send me.” As if his service to the nation wasn’t enough, Rosser, the oldest son of 17 children, went on to become chief of police in Haverhill, Fla., and a school teacher.

The latter role prompted him to stress the importance of education. Looking at the nearly 500 Snowhill students, Rosser encouraged them to “get a good education,”adding, “if not, you’re not going to cut it.”

He also told them that “we seniors, we veterans, we’re going to give you the greatest gift we could ever give you — The United States of America. We want you to defend it, make it better and turn it over to your children and grandchildren as a free country. You will be the future leaders.”

There were other messages of note. Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland cautioned the children about misunderstanding video games based on war. “Please understand,” he stressed, “the reality of war is very, very hard.”

The ceremony also included a moment of silence for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the Armed Forces. Snowhill Librarian Sheri Ehnie later remarked, “the children were so quiet — that’s priceless.”

Also priceless are the veterans who were there on Monday, all those who have served around the world throughout the history of our country, and those who are serving today.