Veteran's Day salute: Rick Mosley
Rick Mosley took his time marching up the steps of the Lexington Market in Baltimore one late September afternoon. He wore a boot on his left foot -- a precursor to the surgery he would undergo the following day -- and a black mesh ballcap that displayed his status as a Vietnam War veteran. When he found a table to his liking, he sat down, dug into a sandwich and began to talk about his son, Maryland sophomore guard Sean Mosley.
But he also took some detours and delved into his own past, one that included a 14-month tour of Vietnam that forever will be etched into his memory. Rick Mosley joined the Army right out of high school in Brooklyn and rose to the rank of sergeant first class. Was he scared? Maybe, but he tried to play down the significance of his service.
"There's not a whole lot to it," Mosley said. "You're just over there and you do what you got to do. You got to survive and get back home."
That task was more difficult than Mosley let on, but some of the enduring struggles of his time in Vietnam are the visions that won't go away. Earlier that September day, Mosley had been in a support group meeting at the Baltimore VA Medical Center for veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.
"There really aren't a whole lot of memories that you want to brag about, other than having clothes made," Mosley said. "I had a lot of suits made over there because there were a lot of Asian tailors who made inexpensive, handmade clothes. There were a lot of serious times."
About a month into his tour, Mosley's platoon was ambushed 15 minutes after leaving its base on a convoy into Xuan Loc.
"When everybody survived that ambush it was the first time that I seen where people doing exactly what they were supposed to do at the time they were supposed to do it could have an impact on how you made it through Vietnam," Mosley said. "That was what I used to carry me through the rest of my tour."
When Mosley returned from Vietnam, he served his remaining military time as a drill sergeant at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. When he left the Army, Mosley became an investigator in the Baltimore criminal courts before taking a job in manpower resources at the mayor's office. After that, Mosley went to work for the Baltimore city jail and bounced around a few other jobs before finishing his career at the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, where he retired July 27 for medical reasons.
In early September, Mosley was ordained as a minister at a nondenominational Baltimore church. He was raised a Catholic and went to Catholic grammar school, but he did not assume ownership of his faith until well after his tour in Vietnam ended.
"I was tired of feeling like I was alone and in it by myself," Mosley said. "I just felt like there had to be a reason why I'm still surviving, even though I was looking at other folks falling along the way."
Four years ago, Mosley began making once-a-month visits to the Anne Arundel County Detention Center to do outreach prison work with a group called Heart to Heart Ministries.
"Having worked in the jail, I knew the guys needed some kind of spiritual uplifting," Mosley said. "There's a lot of feeling of hopelessness, people feeling lost and helpless, like they're all out there on their own. It's good to let them know that God is there for you no matter what you go through. I felt the same way when I came back from Vietnam. There can't be a God with all these things that have happened. And it took me some time to get back to practicing my faith."
Mosley said he loved his time in the Army and that he "wouldn't trade it for anything in the world," despite the physical and emotional pain that endures. The foot surgery he underwent the following day was to remove a bone that had been causing immense discomfort. Actually, he said, both feet need surgery, but the right one will have to wait until April. Since Mosley is diabetic, the doctors did not want to operate on both feet at the same time. They want to make sure one is healed before fixing the other.
He contracted diabetes in Vietnam where he and his fellow troops were exposed to Agent Orange, the code name for a highly toxic herbicide and defoliant used by the U.S. military. Mosley said his diabetes has caused neuropathy and sciatic nerve paralysis.
Still, Mosley said, the Army did him far more good than bad. The discipline, the camaraderie, the sense of being in charge -- he cherished it all.
"Particularly in Vietnam," Mosley said, "you were in charge of your own destiny."
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