Ron “Ronnie” Campsey is a decorated Vietnam War hero, beloved community philanthropist, local legend, and since 1979, the owner and proprietor of the New Moon Café in East Quogue.
It’s 1967 in Lộc Ninh, Vietnam. Campsey, then 25 years old, is on patrol with his unit: 1st Division, 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry, Delta Company, known collectively as “The Big Red One.”
“My unit had never been in face-to-face combat,” he explains. “To us, it was like playing cowboys and Indians … An RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) round hit the rubber tree I was standing behind and blew it to hell — and it took me with it … My face and my arm were numb; my uniform was shredded … The medic said, ‘Campsey, I thought you were dead,’ and he pulled me back. I asked him if my arm and leg were still attached. He had to tell me that they were.”
Campsey suffered multiple injuries, including a fractured vertebrae and severe shrapnel wounds, but rather than sitting out the rest of the battle and getting the treatment he needed, he continued fighting on that day in Lộc Ninh.
A short time later, he was involved in a ferocious firefight where he displayed a level of bravery and selflessness in combat that ultimately earned him a Silver Star for Gallantry, two Bronze Stars for Heroism and a Purple Heart. While his experiences in Vietnam changed him in many ways, Campsey refused to let his trauma consume him. He worked to overcome his physical and psychological wounds.
Part of the healing process involved codifying his thoughts on the Vietnam War — and the essence of war in general. When he marches in veteran’s parades or takes part in activities that call for placards or banners, Campsey carries a sign printed with his own words:
WHY I LOVE AMERICA
I march for those who are with me whose voices can no longer be heard
For the families who lost so much to war
Every day is Memorial Day for them
I hope the young men and women will stand up and ask “WHY?”
When the sabres of war come rattling again.