BY MARLENE BROWNING-WAINSCOTT
Sweet Owen Contributor
In honor of those who served their country and paid the ultimate price for freedom, we honor the life and memory of a member of the Owen County community: Robert “Bobby” Osborne. Bobby served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam for two years and six months in the 1st Cavalry Division with the rank of SP4.
Sweet Owen Boy
One of six children to Porter and Christine Osborne, Bobby grew up your typical mischievous boy.
“If he couldn’t pick on you, he wasn’t satisfied, much like our dad,” said Bobby’s sister, Bonnie Fitzgerald. “I can remember one time Bobby and our brother, Larry, painted one of the goats green. He was always playing pranks.”
Bobby graduated from Owen County High School in 1966, having played basketball, as an outfielder in baseball, served as class president during his freshman year, and was a member of the “O” Club. He married shortly after graduating and became a driver for the Shell Oil Company in Owenton. He received his draft letter to report for duty in the U.S. Army on June 4, 1967.
Like thousands of others in Vietnam, the letters Bobby received from home brought small moments of happiness. The letters provided comfort during the sleepless nights and in the absence of the comfort, love, and support he left behind.
During Bobby’s service, he received many letters from both family and friends, and when able, he would reply. His letters shared many of his experiences during combat, recalled warm memories of home, and reflected on the faith that kept him steady.
Dec. 15, 1968: Take care of yourself and don’t worry yourself sick over me. Just keep busy and don’t try and think about the situation so much. The way everybody’s talking, it can’t last much longer. Don’t get worried over what you hear on TV or radio. Enjoy yourself through the holiday and don’t worry about me. Tell everybody hello.
Feb. 26, 1969: Well mom I got a letter from you and your box you sent me. I had to leave my box back with my pack. We had to come out on a night ambush. But I did open and see what I had; it looks like I’ll have a good feast tomorrow. I am fine but just tired of this place. Tomorrow makes 16 weeks and next Thursday I’ll be over 1/3 of the way. You take good care and don’t worry so much and I hope you all go to church and turn to God for your problems. He really helps and I know you all already know that so when you fall down just pray for strength and he will see us all through. We all have to have faith. Just take care and don’t worry so much. Don’t work so hard dad.
Brothers in spirit, a bond forever unbroken
During Osborne’s tour, he developed a close friendship with a fellow soldier, Danny. Many of his letters shared Bobby and Danny’s plans for when they came home. Tragically, Danny was killed a short few months after Bobby on July 3, 1969. The following excerpt from one of Danny’s letters, written to his own family, displays the kindred spirit the two found in one another during their time in Vietnam.
“Osborne is still with me and we will be together all the time that we will be over here. He comes over to my fox hole about every night, and we talk about all the hunting we are going to do when we get back home.”
March 23, 1969
Many combat veterans who returned from war have said there are very few moments free from the fear of attack. The life of a soldier in combat creates a continued need to be alert and ready for enemy fire or invasion.
On March 23, 1969, Bobby was fatally wounded by friendly fire on Landing Zone Lil, Republic of Vietnam. The following letter from his captain extended sympathy to Bobby’s family and provided information on the events surrounding his death.
“Robert was sleeping, awaiting his turn for guard duty. Due to a threat of enemy intrusion, everyone on the Landing Zone was alert to any unannounced movement. As Robert stirred in his sleep, causing branches to snap, another guard, unaware of Robert’s location, heard the movement and fired his rifle in Robert’s direction, mortally wounding him. . . . I sincerely hope the knowledge that Robert was an exemplary soldier and died while serving his country will comfort you in this hour of great sorrow.”
Service and Honor
While commendations and medals are never enough to honor the ultimate sacrifice, Bobby Osborne received the Combat Infantry Badge, Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal, RVN Gallantry Cross Medal with Palm, Good Conduct Medal, and the Purple Heart.
While many of us did not know Bobby and the thousands of other Vietnam War casualties, his sister offers us the opportunity to see all that he was and all that he could have been.
“Bobby was a very faithful person,” she said. “He always carried a small Old Testament Bible in his pocket, even when he was over there. He was a great person and was a friend to so many. Mind you, he would rather pick on you than eat, but he was a great brother and we all loved him. He died too soon, and we missed him.”
When we reflect on the life of Bobby and the lives that he touched, we should appreciate that while he never had the opportunity to meet many of us, both his life and sacrifice made a difference in all our lives. Each person who never came home’s ultimate sacrifice allows us to complete their journey through our continued words and deeds.
The friends and family they left behind and the friends they knew for just a moment are why they pushed forward, despite the risks. Their self-sacrifice was demonstrated in both their devotion to their country and their fellow man. While we cannot personally thank those that did not come home, we can thank those who did for their sacrifices and realize that while they made it home, they came back with a heavier load because they carried the memories of the fallen.