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Four-Time Purple Heart Recipient John Hosier Jr. Shares Stories at the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall in Concordia, Missouri

I traveled to Concordia, Mo. last weekend not for their fair, but for something that was much more prominent to me: the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall. I have been to the monument In Washington D.C. when I was given the opportunity to go as an escort for The Honor Flight and to photograph the entire event. The Wall in Concordia is 3/5 in scale to the one in D.C. It was still impressive even in it’s smaller version. They call the monument in D.C. “The Wall that Heals.” There are approximately 58,000 servicemen and women names that are etched in the black granite panels in D.C.

As I walked along the wall in all of its glory, my heart cried and mourned for every name that is on there. These names were of young kids sent into a land of not knowing who truly was their enemy. I stumbled across a few names from Pettis County: Bobbie Lee Ditzfeld, James Lloyd Siron, Anthony Eugene Buckner (Buckner Apartments are named for him) and Davied Eugene Thomas.

Other names from Pettis County that I did not see were Gary Dean Byrd, James Jewel Fowler, James Milton Dale, Mike Duane Gearheart, James Richard Brown, Julius Clyde Faircloth, Herman John Vollmer and Verndean Arthur Brockman.

Just think, what an opportunity to have the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall come to our location. Many people can not afford to travel to D.C. and see it, so this an outstanding way to experience The Wall that Heals.

There were two photos of the Statues that are at the monument in D.C. One is “Three Soldiers,” a photo of the three men standing together looking out over the land, and the other represented “The Vietnam Women’s Memorial” of three women who were nurses in  the war who helped tend and take care of the injured. I remember seeing those statues and tried in my mind to understand how they felt, how scared they might have been and what horror had they already seen or about to see.

I then ventured over to a double tent set up with over 2000 items that were carried and used in the war. My favorite thing to look at was the photographs. I was photographing everything I could because I knew there may be some people who would not be able to make this trip or because of PTSD that might not want to relive it.

I walked over to this wonderful gentleman named John Hosier Jr., Four time Purple Heart Recipient. His nickname “Fribley”.

John Hosier Jr.
John Hosier Jr.

“I was a paratrooper in a long range recon platoon with the Airborne Rangers,” he told me. “That is what I initially went to Vietnam for. I got shot up. Woke up at a hospital ship. They made me a clerk. I hated it. I wanted to go back out in the field to do some payback. That’s what I trained for a lot of years to do. I didn’t want to sit behind a desk. I bitched all the time about it and finally upset my 1st Sergent and he came in one morning and handed me a camera. My numbers to get me back out into combat never added up right to go back into combat. So a photographer is not considered combat even if your are a combat photographer. He handed me the camera and said, ‘Go!’ I did that for about 10 months. I experienced more as a combat photographer than I did as a combatant.”

Hosier’s stories intrigued me quite a bit. The images that he was able to document from the war were outstanding. There was another story that he told a whole group. It was about one of the guys in the platoon that had received a Christmas Tree for the 4th of July. John razzed the young man about it, saying “Doesn’t your family have calendars in their home?” It was five months until Christmas. The young man told John it was from last Christmas. Again, John razzed him some more about the family not having calendars in their home. So the young man ended up putting the tree together. Keep in mind, this is on the 4th of July. He used candy wrappers to make the ornaments and then used shaving cream to make it look like snow on the tree. Then all of a sudden, in all the silence of the evening, you heard this young man started singing, “Silent Night.” Slowly, the other men joined in and then they sent mortars into the air. They celebrated Independence Day and Christmas love with tears and thoughts of home.

I want to talk about one of the other photos that I fell in love with. Here is what John told me about this picture. It is titled “The Guys.”

“First we start with the kid on the left side of the picture with glasses, the black man,” Hosier said. “He worked for Ford Motor Co. in Detroit, Mich. and later got caught up in the civil rights movement and marches. The next kid on the the far right was from Hoboken, NJ. The fat kid on the left with glasses was from San Diego, Ca.”

“The kid on the left in the very back with the helmet was a preacher’s son from Oklahoma. One of the best men I ever met in my life. He never had anything bad to say of anybody. Carried his Bible with him. He would ask he if could pray for us. If someone’s stuff was too heavy to carry, he was the first to help carry it. He was the first guy to help everybody and he was killed. I was always angry for years and years that Red died, because he was a better man than I was. He had this heart of gold and this spirit about him in everything he did. Maybe it was his time to go back to the Lord. Maybe he was ready.”

“The second kid from the right is from Brooklyn named Sarajolie. He was a mouthy, smart-ass little son of a bitch. Never helped out. If he would say anything, it was “F” you. He wasn’t very likeable. He was just that guy that was always trying to get the edge of the break. It was okay once in awhile, but it was all the time. He would get caught cheating at Monopoly. I always wished he was killed instead of Red and I hated him. Four years ago we took the wall and tent to New York City and I looked him up.”

I asked him had he changed any. “Sarajolie joined the nearest fire department. He was one of the first responders of 9/11. Part of the building fell on him and crushed part of his arm. And he reached out to give his life. Got a wife and four kids. He’s an amazing man, amazing man. It’s odd how life has it’s twist and turns.”

I was sitting in tears hearing these stories of these young heroic men. My heart broke into a thousand pieces just listening to John. I look forward to seeing him again.

The exhibit has traveled to more than 300 cities in the United States and has visited 46 of the states. The exhibit’s home is in O’Fallon, Mo., where John lives with his wife, Mary, and their seven children. Never in my life would I have ever thought I would have met such a hero as I had with John.

The exhibit is financed through private donations for its maintenance, expansion, travel and continued presentation throughout our great country.

Thank You, John Hosier for your exhibit, “Through the Eyes.” You have left a place even deeper in my heart for all veterans and all of our active duty servicemen and women. Thank you for your service and God bless you!

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