Rhonda (Bradley) at OPHSA Reunion 2005
F. Walden Storie 2003
A Veteran’s Day Tribute to Ron Bradley
Almost a Veteran
Every year on Veteran’s Day we honor those who have served our country in the military. I want to tell you about a young soldier I met while serving in the Korean War. He almost became a veteran like my self.
Some may be too young to remember the Korean War. Most History books only give one or two pages to the Korean War, some books only have one or two paragraphs. The Korean War has been referred to as a police action, a conflict, and the forgotten war.
The nation of Korea was controlled by the Japanese for 35 years. After the unconditional surrender of the Japanese in 1945, Korea became a free country. The 38th Parallel became a dividing line - Russia controlled the north – the U.S. influenced the south. It was much like Eastern Europe at the close of World War II with the division of East and West Berlin.
In 1950 the North Koreans invaded South Korea with the backing of the Russians and Chinese. U.S. troops and others were called on to stop the Communist forces. The U.S. took the major role of course. The war in Korea lasted for more than three years until a cease fire was imposed on July 27, 1953. This was not the only war fought to halt communism, but it was the first.
During that three year period 37,000 U.S. troops were killed; 103,000 wounded; and another 8,000 were listed as Missing in Action. The number of MIA’s was very high considering the fact that South Korea is slightly smaller than the state of Kentucky.
It is one of those MIA’s that I want to tell you about. When I arrive in Korea it was the early spring of 1953. I was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division – 15th Regiment – Baker Company. I had been in Baker Company for about a week when I was told to report to the Command Post (C.P.) I was to be there early the next morning. I was assigned to go to a Listening Post (L.P.) with a soldier named Bradley. This L.P. was a position used to observe enemy activity and any movement that might be in our direction. There were many L.P.’s along the main line, and around our outpost. These L.P.’s were always occupied, especially at night. (This was our early warning system.) We were there for the entire day. Our position was three or four hundred yards forward of our line of defense. We reported every half hour to our C.P. (Our phone system was high tech—the old Sound power with the phone lines lying on the ground.)
Our position was a crater made by a bomb or shell, so there was no need to dig a foxhole which was usually an everyday job for someone.
Ron Bradley had been in Korea for about five or six weeks.. He was about 5’4” and looked to be about fifteen years old -not even old enough to shave. Actually, he was twenty.
We talked about many things since we had to stay there until we could move back to our C.P. under the cover of darkness.
I will spare you a lot of the details of our next two months. Ron was given the job as a radio man for the platoon leader, and he was also a platoon runner. He kept everyone informed at all times. Ron enjoyed his work and had so much energy. I saw him almost every day during the weeks that followed.
On June 11, 1953, we were engaged in a fierce battle for a position known as Outpost Harry. Our 15th Regiment and 5th R.C.T. along with other support groups suffered heavy losses. Several companies had 60 – 70% casualties. The battle to defend our Outpost lasted for eight days (June 10-18). I was wounded during the battle and while in the hospital I received the message that Ron Bradley had been killed in action along with two other friends. Five weeks later as I was being released from the hospital I met a member of Baker Company and learned that Ron Bradley had been listed as MIA – and his status has never changed. It was hard to understand. My friend, along with three others, vanished in the middle of the night.
Now let me fast forward forty years to 1993. It is Fort Knox, Kentucky and I’m attending a military (veteran’s) reunion. There were a group of us who were survivors from the battle for Outpost Harry in June 1953. During the reunion I was given an article from one of our Regiment newspapers. Someone told me to read it. When I asked why , the reply was that it was about Ron Bradley. Someone in Nebraska wanted to talk to anyone who had seen or known Ron Bradley in Korea. I was the only person at the reunion who had known him.
I decided that I would contact this person in Nebraska by letter. After about ten days I got my act together and wrote a four page letter to whomever- his mom, sister, or wife? No, I am writing to Rhonda – the baby his wife was expecting when we had talked in April 1953. I knew that Ron had a child somewhere but never thought I would find out in such a fashion. Rhonda called me immediately after she received my letter. During our first conversation, I remember telling her, “I don’t need to ask your age.” We have not fully convinced Rhonda that her father was killed in action. She still thinks that maybe he is, or was, a prisoner of war. She has her DNA on file in case that is a possibility – even after 52 years.
Here is where we need to ask the question – Did Ron Bradley have a chance to grow up? Sure – you grow up fast in a combat situation. He became a man in a short period of time. But Bradley never had the chance to grow old and become gray – or bald. He didn’t even get the chance to become a veteran. He didn’t get the chance to hug his grandchildren. I have been lucky to have been able to hug them for him. David and Elizabeth were age eight and five when I first met them. They have kind of adopted me as their Grandpa. I still stay in touch with Rhonda’s family once or twice a year. I was later able to meet Rhonda’s older children, Laura and Lonnie.
Today I am telling you about this experience for only one reason – to maybe help just a few more people understand why, how, and by what means we are able to enjoy the liberty and freedom that we know today. We have this God-given right to freedom because it has been defended by those who served in our nation’s military---many who paid the ultimate price.
I read a story of General George Washington while our country was in its infancy. At a crucial time in his life, while facing the British , the concern for national security was very much on his mind. He had the “Sunshine Patriots” who could not be counted on when the going was rough. But he also had the true American patriots whom he knew he could depend on. General Washington ordered his lieutenants to put the Americans on guard that night.
Would you believe that the Americans are still on guard and have never left their post? They are guarding our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—OUR FREEDOM.
Our American troops are on guard in many areas of the world, even as we speak, protecting the rights of others who strive to be a free people. Our troops will be there for us tomorrow, still on guard. You may ask how I know this – I know because I have walked among some of these heroes and patriots…as many of you veterans have done.
These Americans will always be there, standing tall, as all of our troops have done in the past. Today, I believe that my friend, Ron Bradley, (though small in stature) stood very tall among the Americans that General Washington believed in.
And he, like many thousands, made the ultimate sacrifice as they gave their all.
I think of my own military service as my duty and what a privilege it has been to have served with such a great group of people!! I consider it an honor to have had just one very tiny part in service to my country, the greatest country on earth…
©Copyright 2006, F. Walden Storie. All rights reserved