Real heroes came from hometowns across U.S.
Battling sub-zero temperatures and an enemy outnumbering them 20 plus to one, they managed to survive the Battle of Chosin Reservoir despite taking some 15,000 casualties. At the Imjin River and Kapyong, they blunted an offensive by 700,000 Chinese. They distinguished themselves at battles whose names have become iconic-Heartbreak Ridge-Old Baldy-Porkchop Hill. They are the Marines and Army infantrymen whose incredible valor in the face of often overwhelming odds prevented a Communist takeover of South Korea.
The price paid with American blood for the preservation of the small democratic state was substantial; 36,940 deaths; 92,134 wounded; 3,737 MIAs. The enemy losses numbered an estimated half million troops. While many local communities suffered losses, one in particular was hard hit. My hometown, Little Falls. Our city of less than 9,000 lost five men: Clifton Avery, Walter Bobak, William Grogan, Thomas Ochar and Milan Mosny.
The latter’s death was particularly poignant to my friends and me because his brother, Danny, was a classmate. The six Mosny brothers were an institution in the community not only for their prowess on the basketball court, but for their values, citizenship and scholarship. While I didn’t know Milan personally, along with everyone else growing up in the late ’40s and ’50s, I knew of him. Milan Mosny might have been the finest role model ever to graduate from the “purple and white.”
At the end of an exemplary high school career replete with numerous accomplishments (athletic and extracurricular), Milan gave his valedictory address and headed to West Point to join the Class of ’49.There, his record was no less stellar; high scorer of the A-Squad hoopsters, letterman in baseball and cross country, upper-third in his class, Modern Language prize winner in French, etc. He went on to earn his wings as a F86D fighter pilot, honing his skills to the extent that in the words of his commanding officer, “Mo was one of the most promising officers I have known. His Academy background and his flying ability were great assets, but secondary to the man he was.”
According to those in the know, the sky was the limit as far as his future was concerned. Ironically, it was in the sky that the life of this exceptional young man was ended. On January 6, 1955 in Japan during a night intercept training exercise, Milan and his co-pilot were killed in a mid-air collision with another jet.
It seems that memories of the Captain and four other men previously mentioned faded with the passing years until known only by a handful of residents. This phenomenon is commonplace. It’s not that people don’t care about those who were lost during our many wars; it’s that they haven’t been reminded not to forget. On May 12, the people of Little Falls were reminded thanks to several high school students who conducted a food drive while wearing t-shirts with the names Avery, Bobak, Grogan, Ochar and Mosny prominently displayed. They collected nearly 1,500 items of food and $168 for the local pantry. Along with their peers from Mohawk and Frankfort who conducted similar drives (honored Marine Cpl. David Mills and SSgt. John LaPolla respectively-both KIA in Vietnam), the students introduced another dimension regarding how Memorial Day can be observed. We can honor our heroes by doing something in their memories to improve the quality of life of their hometowns.
Earlier, I wrote that Milan Mosny would make a great role model. I mean, what parents wouldn’t want their children to possess his attributes; integrity-strong work ethic-responsibilty-respectfulness-compassion-humility-patriotic. That said, might I suggest that any of us looking for role models need look no further than our own communities; their names are etched in stone on the memorials which remain lasting testimonies to their indomitable spirit, their unimpeachable character and their willingness to give their all for their country.
God bless and keep them always.
Ray Lenarcic is a 1965 State University of New York at Fredonia graduate and is a resident of Herkimer.