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Interview with Ernest Kosa, May 1, 2008 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Title:
Interview with Ernest Kosa, May 1, 2008
Date:
May 1, 2008
Description:
Interview with retired Chaplain Ernest M. Kosa.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Kosa, Ernest Interviewer:  Zarbock, Paul Date of Interview:  5/1/2008 Series:  Military Chaplains Length  60 minutes

 

Zarbock: Good afternoon. Today is the 1st of May in the year 2008 and we're in Kansas City, Missouri interviewing retired chaplains who are attending a reunion held here in Kansas City. My name is Paul Zarbock. I'm a staff member with the University of North Carolina Wilmington's Randall Library. Chaplain, could you tell us your name please and we'll take it from there.

Kosa: I'm Ernest M. Kosa. My address is 8 Heritage Drive, Sparta, New Jersey 07871.

Zarbock: Chaplain, what individual or event led you into the ministry?

Kosa: Well, in the ministry, what it was that my father was a minister in New Brunswick, New Jersey there, where I lived practically all my life as a young boy, and being brought up in the manse, using that term, and in the church, I just, it became second nature to me. And so consequently after I left home, I went onto Bloomfield Academy and Bloomfield College and then Bloomfield Seminary. And when I graduated, I thought of the military all during this time, and I had sent my application in and it came back rejected because in those days you needed four years of practical experience, meaning internship or at a church.

Zarbock: What year did you graduate from seminary?

Kosa: I graduated from seminary in 1948, and then when my four years were up, first of all I went out to Cleveland, Ohio and was an assistant pastor our there for two years. I think the reason why he wanted me to go out there was that it was a Hungarian church. I did speak Hungarian and he wanted me to preach for him at the English service. I was also an organist, I had taken organ while in seminary, and so I became organist and I also with a music background, I had all the choirs to take care of too. And so I think that's the reason why I was asked to come out there.

Zarbock: Was it a very large church?

Kosa: Yes, the membership was about close to 2,000 and I spent two years there and I was called to Sterling, New Jersey at a Presbyterian church there to be its minister there, and I accepted and they accepted me and I spent another two years there. Now my four years were up, I send my application in and it came back "we accept you" and that's when I started my military career in 1952.

Zarbock: You had no previous military experience had you?

Kosa: No, I did not.

Zarbock: And your father was not a military chaplain?

Kosa: No, he was not.

Zarbock: Okay. Well then, who taught you how to be a soldier?

Kosa: Well, (laughs) one of the reasons too I did go in was I had an uncle who was in the Navy and who spent all of his life in the Navy, my father's brother, and there was the little bit of a military. I thought very seriously of going into the Navy as a chaplain, but I'm glad I didn't for the reason was that I'd get seasick, and consequently I'm glad I never went in. I found that out later on too that even aboard a ship I get seasick. In fact, when I was accepted into the chaplaincy, the first thing that they did was send me to Chaplain School. There's where I received the training for the military.

Zarbock: And where was Chaplain School?

Kosa: The Chaplain School was at Fort Slocum just off of Long Island across from New Rochelle.

Zarbock: And how long was that training?

Kosa: That training I believe was six weeks. The reason for that being so short was the Korean war was on, and they told all of us "you're all going to Korea as a chaplain." So we all graduated from this school, we got our basic training there and then they first sent me to one of the areas out in Texas just for about four months to get a little bit more basic training out there, and then I received my orders, it was actually Fort Bliss, Texas, and then I received my orders to go to Korea.

Zarbock: And how old were you then?

Kosa: How old? I believe I was 34 years old.

Zarbock: And married?

Kosa: No, I was not married.

Zarbock: So off you went to Korea?

Kosa: Off I went to Korea and there's where I was telling you about being seasick. We got aboard the ship, it was an Army transport, and we had one large room and I say never put chaplains together. (laughs) There were nine chaplains in that one big room there and I felt sorry for some of them, because you know, some of the chaplains started with really digging them a little bit, "why did you come in as a chaplain?" and so forth, so on. Well, the first day we were out, we went underneath the Golden Gate Bridge and then the big swells there. We went down to eat. When I came up, went to the railing, everything came out. I went back into the room, went to bed and that's where I stayed in bed for 14 days as we went across the Pacific Ocean. That's why I say I was glad I never went into the Navy.

Zarbock: Chaplain, did anybody bring you food or water or anything?

Kosa: Yes, they did. Some of the other chaplains they'd bring me the saltine crackers and other little things that I could eat, so I did not starve at all.

Zarbock: But that's really a weight reduction program, isn't it?

Kosa: That's the way to get rid of the excess fat if you have any. We landed in I believe in Yokohama and there's where we got our clothing, and we were there for about two or three days and then some of us chaplains went into town to see how Tokyo really looked and all, got back aboard our ship and then we landed in Pusan, that's where the Perimeter there. Well, some of the chaplains remained aboard and I saw one or two of the chaplains and they said let's go into town in Pusan to see how it is. We got off of the ship and started walking into the town. We stopped, we turned around and went back in, and the reason why was this, we saw how the people lived. They were living in boxes, the poor people over there. You see, Pusan was just a perimeter where the North Koreans have come down and they were stopped there at Pusan, and a lot of the Koreans all gravitated to Pusan to escape the Communists who were coming down.

Zarbock: Refugees.

Kosa: Refugees, correct. So we went back to the ship until they put us aboard the train. My experience aboard the train was this: They put me in charge because I happened to be an officer, a First Lieutenant, of that big car, and the soldiers were in there and they told me I'm in charge, and they said there would be a sergeant who could do everything you tell him to do. I said, "But I'm a chaplain." And they said, "Don't worry about it." And then they said this is where you're going to sit. They didn't tell me at that time that underneath that bench that I was sitting on was all the ammunition, and in fact the sergeant was the one that told me about it. Well, when the train stopped, immediately two of the soldiers got to each end, make sure nobody got off or got on, especially got on board that ______ of our train there. We landed back in Seoul, Korea, finally got there, and I was assigned. I was assigned to the 45th Infantry Division and then to the 279th Infantry Regiment, the 2nd Battalion. That 2nd Battalion was up in the front lines, and that's where I had to go. The one nice thing about it was this, that I had the very good experience of some of my commanding officers of being very, very religious. In fact, let me give you one example, I had finished having my supper and I was walking back to my little tent I had, and I saw the colonel sitting there at his trailer on the step coming down, and when he saw me, he says, "Chaplain, come on over please." I went over to him and then I looked and I saw he was reading the bible, and he said, "Chaplain, there are certain things I just do not understand, please explain them to me." I said, "I gladly will." And here we started a conversation very nicely of reading the bible and my explaining to him some of the things that he did not understand. You know, that hit me really beautifully using that term, that I'd say three-quarters or more of my officers, I'm Presbyterian, happen to be Presbyterians too, which made it very nice for me. But the other thing was this, I found out that the military was more Christian, or I should not use that term, more religious than the people living out in civilian life. And that to me was, you know, people think that the military is a non-Christian or non-religious organization. It's false. It's false.

Zarbock: Is this the result of the stress that they experience in military life?

Kosa: That is part of it, yes it is, but many of them probably gain religious feelings while they are in the military because we never knew, a shell could come and all that, and so they did try to make it up and say, "Lord, here I am. Take care of me." I held my services in the trenches. Each day I would be up, I'd carry a little briefcase with me, I had hymn books in there and I had bible readings and all that, my bible, and I went from squad to squad to squad. A squad was eight men, and then I saw down with them, read the bible, interpreted it and then I would ask them "What hymn or hymns would you like to sing?" They always selected two hymns, one of them was What a Friend We Have in Jesus, and the second one was, and I think the reason for that too is a number of reasons, was that we were way up in the north, way north of the 38th parallel, up in the mountains, and the Chinese were across the way over there, and I told the men, "Sing that those Communist Chinese can hear you singing," which is wrong, because then they would drop something on us, but anyway, I said, "Sing. The good Lord's gonna take care of us." And the other hymn they always selected was The Old Rugged Cross, and they sang it all the time. Those two hymns, What a Friend We Have in Jesus and The Old Rugged Cross.

Zarbock: Chaplain, how would you get there from squad to squad?

Kosa: You walk. It's in the trenches. You just walk. I lived in the aid station there and I would tell the medical officer there that I'm going up, and many times he would send somebody with me, because I was not allowed to carry a rifle or a gun or anything like that, and so many times when I was going out into the woods there and all that, I had a sergeant with me who had the rifle and all.

Zarbock: And he would provide escort.

Kosa: He would provide escort for me, and this way I felt a little bit safer than being all by myself.

Zarbock: Now this must've been the autumn or early winter?

Kosa: It was autumn, and my tour of duty was 15 months there. I did not have the points to come home. What happened there was this, during the time I was there, the Armistice was so-called, I don't know if it was signed or what they did, but everything stopped and so I still remained there because I did not have all my points to come home and I was with the men every single day out in the field training. Because the unit I was with remained up on the front lines in case something happened. The rest of the division and the regiment pulled back, so I was there every day with them out in the field, training with them, talking with them, and when there was a break I would come to them, say "Do you mind if I sit down with you? Would you like to have a little prayer that I could give?" They never turned me down. "Oh," they said, "chaplain sit with us here, come with us, have a cup of coffee with us and you can talk to us," and that's exactly what I did. Every single day, morning to the evening, I was out with the men. I took my hikes with them. When it was a 60-mile hike, I was with them, the only officer doing that, and in fact what happened was that many of our officers remained back. It was the sergeants who was doing all the work. To tell you the truth, if it were not for the sergeants who knew everything that's going on and many times when we got brand new officers, I said, "Listen to your sergeant, he knows what's going on, and he'll help you greatly." And in fact one time too we had a meeting, the colonel had a meeting, which he had every week, and he says, "You know, the regimental commanding officer said that the only officer he sees out there with the men every single day is a chaplain. Where are the other officers?" Well boy, those officers didn't like it that much. The regimental CO said, "Every officer will be out with the men," and they got a little bit (laughs) because they think that I was the one who did that. No, I feel as a chaplain I should be with the men, and that's what I did. Given if they needed me any time. In fact, they would tell me, "Chaplain, can we talk to you?" I said, "Sure." I took the name down. "I'll give your name over to your sergeant. Who's your first sergeant? And then he'll let you come and see me in my tent." And so as I said, I spent 15 months in Korea, I was transferred back and my next assignment was Fort Benning, Georgia.

Zarbock: But let me return to a point I'd like to make. Those 15 months were not in luxurious quarters, were they?

Kosa: Absolutely not, no, it wasn't. In fact, many times I slept outside. And let me say this to you, in the wintertime it was 40 below zero, it was cold, and many times even I started asking myself, "Ernie, what are you doing here?" (laughs) I knew what I was doing there. I was there for the men as a religious individual to help them mentally, spiritually and even physically because I went with them. I was there with them. Let me just give you one little incident that happened to me at the time. I was out there with the men and then one of the sergeants came by when I was walking there. He says, "Chaplain, down there a shell had fallen, and it's a dud, I'm gonna go back, I'm gonna get that thing to circle it around that no one goes there, but I just wanna let you know, don't let anybody go there." Well, with our unit were the Filipinos, and I saw two Filipino fellows there, I told them, I said, "Look," I pointed out to them, "that's a dud, don't go near it, just leave it there and then just walk away." So I started walking away and then all of a sudden I hear one of these Filipinos calling me, "Chaplain, chaplain." I turn around, he's carrying the dud to me. (laughs) So what I said, "Soldier, just nicely put that dud down on the ground very, very easy and get away from that!" (laughs) That's one of the incidents that happened.

Zarbock: Why in the world would he pick up a dud?

Kosa: I don't know. Maybe he did, being Filipino he probably did not understand everything I was telling him to do, and so I just let that go as that and hopefully nothing, and nothing did happen at all, nothing, no.

Zarbock: If the food was cold, you ate cold food?

Kosa: Correct.

Zarbock: If the food was warm?

Kosa: We ate warm food. What they did is they collected all of our A rations and then put them altogether in a big pot and then just served it to us, which ______.

Zarbock: For the purpose of this recording, which years from now language will change, what do you mean by A rations?

Kosa: That was a ration, what they did was they gave us ration that was left over from World War II, and that's what we used.

Zarbock: And what would be found in the rations?

Kosa: Well, it was a packet and the only thing I ate for about I'd say about six weeks was the, it was round and it was chocolate, hard as a rock, and I had to take that out of that packet and put it into my canteen and then go to the mess tent and get some good hot water and then bang it to give me my hot chocolate. And that's all I had, because the rest of the food when they put it together, it just didn't taste right. From World War II? Look how long that was, you know, in those cans.

Zarbock: Was there one particular kind of food? I'm going to leave you into my own personal response in a minute, but was there one particular kind of food that you hankered for and thought ooh, if I only had?

Kosa: No, there wasn't any to tell you the honest truth. I just didn't think about, you know, anything else. Once the Armistice or whatever was signed and the fighting stopped, then we pulled back a little bit. Let me give you another incident that happened to me when we pulled back. I didn't get along with my Commanding Officer, and the reason that that happened was this, we had a unit way, way out in the perimeter, a whole company of men. If the Chinese attacked, they would try to hold them back until we regrouped on the main line of resistance, we called it MLR, and I was going to go out there to visit with them, and we have little bunkers all along and there's a phone in each bunker as you're going up, well the last bunker I looked out of the window and I could see the mortars on the hill that I'm supposed to climb up to was dropping around there, and I called the captain up and I says, "Look it, I'm here in the last bunker, and I'd like to come out and talk to the men, maybe hold a little service for them," and he says, "Chaplain, don't come out. They got us covered. They're watching us. You couldn't do anything anyway. Why don't you want until we come in," because each week they changed. "When we come back, you'll hold a little service for them then." I says, "I'll do that, Captain, I just want to let you know I'm in the last bunker, I wanted to come out, but thank you very much for, you know, what you told me." So I went back and the Colonel asked me, "Did you go out to see the men?" I says, "No." But he never let me finish the reason why. Well, it just so happened that he and I just plain just didn't get along together. I think I could've received a very bad report from him too, but when we pulled back, I thought what I would do is hold a memorial service and it was one of the big, 155 gun emplacements that had been vacated because they pulled back too, the artillery, and I told the executive officer, he knew there was a little hard feeling between the two of us, the Commanding Officer and myself, I said, "I'm going to hold this memorial service in this gun emplacement there, and will you invite the Commanding Officer to come to that?" and he says, "Ernie, I'll take care of it." And word went out to all of our units to come in there for the memorial service. Well, they all did come. The last one walked in was the Commanding Officer. He did come. I gave my little, I'll say sermon, to the men there and then at the end I read the names of the men we had lost in combat there, but I had just before that I had found one of the aid [ph?] men that we had, had a trumpet. How he had a trumpet there, I don't know. And I told him, I said, "I'll tell you what, at the end when I finish reading the names of those men, my hand is gonna go up for the benediction. I want you on the top of that hill there. Play taps." And that's exactly what happened. It was all quiet there, I read the names, my hand went up, and I kept it up, and I gave the benediction and I kept it up there and all of a sudden (sings taps) and resounding throughout the whole area there. I guess it hit the Colonel tremendously, because from then on we were friends, real good friends. That's another incident, okay.

Zarbock: Back to the food thing, just a personal remark on my part. When I got back to the States after having been overseas for about three and a half years, I craved fresh milk, and I thought I could never drink enough fresh milk, and a lot of times in those days you could buy it in the glass bottle. Oh, that was the most wonderful taste in the world. Well, so you're back from Korea and where are you assigned?

Kosa: Fort Benning, Georgia, and then I was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division, the same Division that is now in Iraq. And I was there with them for four years. That's a long, long time, which normally it does not happen. During that time I did get married and the young lady that you met today.

Zarbock: How did you meet your wife?

Kosa: I knew my wife, Barbara, when I was still in seminary. She came to work there at the seminary in the office there and she became secretary to the Vice President of the School, and that's how I met her. And there too, again, at Fort Benning we received a new unit in because the draft was on. And they were only in there for two years and they left and another unit came in, and then I received orders to go to the Caribbean to do island hopping to hold services where we had troops in the Caribbean. Well, I found out that the 3rd Infantry Division was going to gyro to Germany, so I called up the Chief of Chaplain's office, I said, "Look it, I've been with these men here, not the enlisted men, but the NCO and the officers for the past four years. I know them all. Can't I go with them, gyro over to Germany with them?" He says, "Go ahead, Ernie, you can go." They changed my orders and then we gyroed over to Germany. Gyro meant that the whole unit, I was then with the 2nd Battle Group, 4th Infantry. The whole group, including children, wives and all, enlisted men, NCOs and officers all went aboard one ship. We landed at Bremerhaven, we took the train down to Bamberg, which is in Bavaria, very close to the Czech border, and that's where we had two Battle Groups there, the 1st Battle Group 50th Infantry, the 2nd Battle Group 4th Infantry, I was with the 2nd Battle Group 4th Infantry. With my group there was a Catholic chaplain. I told him to stay back in the cantonment area to take care of that part there. One Battle Group was six weeks out in the field training, the other one remained back and then exchanged every time. So that's how we did it for the three years that we were there.

Zarbock: What was your rank at that time, Chaplain?

Kosa: Captain. And here too, I was with the men all the time. I was out training with them out in the field, I went to the firing range with them, I fired the rifle, I'm just, you know, training with them. Every time I fired a rifle, bull's eye. I never hit the thing at all. (laughs) I might have hit a bird in the sky or whatever it was, but that was it. I even got into the tank and they showed me how to adjust it and all that, and they set the cross hairs, and once a cross hair hits that target, don't push the button because a sergeant is still behind that gun that comes back. He's the one that's going to tell you. And then I heard him say "Chaplain, I'm out of the way. Are you ready?" "I'm ready." "Fire at will." I pushed a button, that whole tank shook up, bull's eye, I didn't hit a thing because I guess I was a chaplain, you know.

Zarbock: Well, you were a respected chaplain.

Kosa: Well I tell you, let me say this to you, being that I was out in the field constantly with those men all the time, when we were back in the cantonment area and I think I probably was the only chaplain of the 3rd Infantry Division that did it, because the rest of the chaplains, when we got together for our meetings, my report that I handed in each month had the highest chapel attendance on it. The other chaplains were saying, "You padding it, Ernie?" I says, "No," but what I told them is this, "Are you out with the men? Are you with them every single day out in the field?" They says, "No." "How do you talk to them?" "We wait for them to come back and then come to the chapel with us." I says, "No," I says, "I'm out there with them. If something needs to be done, then I do it right there. Now, if it's something else, I'll write their name down, I'll talk to their sergeant and when we get back after our time is up, then they'll send you or they'll send an enlisted man to my office." I visited every single barracks in Bamberg, I saw every single enlisted man in their barracks, I saw every single NCO in their homes, I visited every single officer in their homes. I felt that was my job as chaplain. It made no difference what religious or what denomination they were, I was their chaplain, and that's what I did, and that's why my attendance was probably the highest in the whole division, 3rd Infantry Division. My time there was up, came back to Fort Eustis, Virginia and in the meantime my son was born there in Germany in Wurzburg, and got back to Fort Eustis, Virginia and my daughter was born there then. So I had three children. Mark was born in Fort Benning, Georgia, Brian was born at I call it Bamberg, Germany, and then my daughter was born in Fort Eustis, Virginia. I spent about two years there. That's the Transportation Corps, and then they sent me to the Chaplain School for the career course. Came back from that, the family remained at Fort Eustis, came back and I think about four weeks later I get a phone call from the Chief of Chaplain's office. "Ernie, we're sending you to Syracuse University to get your Master's Degree in Business Administration. I said, "I'm a chaplain, what're you walking about?" "You're going." I said, "Who said I'm going?" "The Chief of Chaplains said he selected you, wants you to go to Syracuse University." I said okay. I did go. It was a 15-month course and it was all military at Syracuse. I think there were about 40 men in the group there. What did I know about economics and all those different things? My thing was religion, which I had studied, you know, while in seminary, and English and so forth, so on. Well, in the class there were approximately I think four West Point graduates, and they said, "Ernie, we'll help you through. Don't worry." And they did. They sat down with me, showed me how to do the different things, the economic part and the mathematical and so forth and so on, and so consequently we all graduated from Syracuse University. I got my Master's Degree in Business Administration.

Zarbock: Chaplain, what merit when it came to being a chaplain does an MBA have?

Kosa: Okay, let me continue on. My next assignment was the Chaplain School as an instructor there. There I would teach budgeting. Now you see the thing? I would teach them budgeting, I would teach them personnel and those different things like that. Okay? Because the chaplain does take care of the non-appropriated fund [ph?], and you've got to know how to do it.

Zarbock: Oh, those students are important, no doubt about it.

Kosa: Oh yeah, so that's what I was teaching. I only taught for one year. In fact, some of the chaplains, I haven't seen them here yet, can still remember my teaching (laughs) in the Chaplain School because I hated, you know, this multiple choice things, but, you know, I got it across. After my one year of teaching there, they pulled me downstairs to become Director of Administration and Management of the school. I did that for the next two years. And I did all the budgeting for the Chaplain School. And when you finish, when you can finish the end of the year with $2.50 left, I think I did a pretty good job.

Zarbock: So the Army in its wisdom, instead of sending you to counseling or something in divinity or religion, made a business person out of you?

Kosa: That's correct. As I said, I finished my last two years there. The three years were up. Our Chaplain Saunders was at that time the Commandant of the School. He was Roman Catholic. I used to have him over to the house many times for supper and all that, and I used to ask him, I says, "Eddie, before I retire from the military, can I go back to Germany one more time?" He didn't say a word. And one evening when he came over for supper, he asked my wife, "Barbara, do you like wiener schnitzel?" It gave it away, we are going back to Germany. So when my three years was up, the whole family we flew across, we landed in Frankfurt, there was a bus there waiting for us with a chaplain aboard the bus, and he says, "Ernie, I have sad news for you. We could not get any housing for you on post. We're going to set you up in a guest house." At the time, I said, "Whoa, that means I gotta live in, you know, on economy." So they did, they took us there to the guest house. It was a pub, in my English thing, it's a pub, it was called sona [ph?]. And downstairs was the bar and tables there and all that where the old fellows used to come and have their little glass of wine and talk and all that and then there was a nice restaurant part of it too there. Upstairs were the rooms. That's where we lived, upstairs. There were two other families, military families there too. So that's where we lived for four months. We got to know the family real, real well. Frau and Herr Fricke [ph?]. They were the owners of this sona I'll call a pub, and the meals were out of this world. Frau Fricke was the only cook. She would cook, people would come into the restaurant from all over and she would only cook when you ordered it. It wasn't sitting there. If I ordered my wiener schnitzel, she'd start it then. Out of this world. I have not had wiener schnitzel like that in my life yet, even at the German restaurants in America here, never. We spent four months there. We got to know the young couple, there were two young ladies, daughters, one was already married, one got engaged while we were there. She got engaged to Udo [ph?], her name was Uta [ph?]. He graduated from Heidelberg University in economics. And so while we were there yet, I kept on asking her, I said, "Uta, when are you going to get married?" And she said, "Well, we're talking about it." Then all of a sudden one day she did call me up and said, they're very formal, you know, the Germans, said, "Mr. Kosa, we set the date for our wedding." I said, "When?" "June the 12th." "That's my birthday!" "We would like to ask you for a favor." I said, "What is it, Uta?" "We want you to be best man." I'm the foreigner, because I'm in Germany, right? And I was best man for their wedding.

Zarbock: Do you still keep in touch with them?

Kosa: All the time. We've been back a number of times already. We're going back to Germany now the 12th of July and we'll be there with them. They're waiting for us, they're setting up rooms for us and everything.

Zarbock: And this was not in Frankfurt, was it?

Kosa: This was in Heidelberg. See when I went back, the staff chaplain of _______ headquarters asked that I go there and I was the one who did all the budgeting. (laughs) So I began budget chaplain and then later on I was the personnel chaplain too. I assigned all the troops in Germany. In fact, one gentleman came up to me, he says, "You know, I can still remember, you came to me," he said, "here I was in one of the areas over there, which I loved, and then you came to me and says, 'I'm gonna change you. I'm sending you with troops.'" I said, "I already had enough troops." "I don't think you had enough troops. It's good for your career." And I changed his assignment. (laughs) He just told me today that I did that to him.

Zarbock: Reminisce with me, Chaplain.

Kosa: I will.

Zarbock: Would you recall a humorous incident, something that really tickled your funny bone?

Kosa: Yes, these things did happen. Let me give you an incident when I was back at Fort Benning. I was in my chapel, I heard a lot of noise outside and so I came out and I was wondering what's going on here. I saw one colonel there, saw some of the officers there and quite a few of the men. I said, "What's going on?" "One of our men is way up in the top of the tree there and we think he's going to jump." Well, I went there, I happened to know the gentleman, I got to know them all, you know. So I told the Colonel, I says, "Get away from here. Take everybody with you. I don't want anybody around here at all." They did go. I went to the tree, I said, "Soldier, what in the world are you doing up there, what's wrong?" "Oh, the sergeant was harassing me." He was on KP. And so forth, so on. I said, you know, there's two methods you can use, you can use the indirect method or the direct method. Normally we use the indirect method for counseling. So this time, I don't know why, it just came to me, I used the direct method. I said, "Soldier, I want you to come down from that tree immediately, right now, and I'm right here!" "But they're gonna..." "You come down right now, I will take care of you!" He came right down. (laughs) And here the rest of them were there for who knows how long trying to get him down. "Don't jump, don't jump." (laughs) And I took him back with me to my office at the chapel. That's one of them. Another thing, well this is when I was in Vietnam, okay. I was stationed at a hospital, the 3rd Surgical Hospital in Vietnam. When I finished my tour of duty in Heidelberg, Germany, my next assignment was Vietnam. I was assigned to the 3rd Surgical Hospital in Vietnam in the Mekong Delta. Well you've seen MASH, right? It's true. Well, one day I was coming from, we had a little officer's club and all that, and then that's where they served us to eat. I was finished and I was walking back and one of the enlisted men saw me walking back, he says, "Chaplain, are you going back to your quarters?" I said, "Yes, I am." "Don't go back the way you always go. Go around." I says, "Why?" "Well, you know that little pool we had over there?" I says, "Yeah." "It's full of green dye and every individual that's coming along, they're catching them and throwing them in the pool there and you're going to be all green." (laughs) Well, I says, "Thank you soldier, thank you." So I walked around and no one saw me, and I went to my room and locked the door and stayed in there. And they came knocking at my door, "Chaplain, are you in there? Come on, we've got something for you." I didn't answer. (laughs) All night long all I heard was the showers going, it's just gee, boy, and when I got up for breakfast that morning, there's a whole bunch of soldiers sitting there all green. (laughs)

Zarbock: What motivated that?

Kosa: Just to have fun.

Zarbock: Oh, okay.

Kosa: You know, like in the MASH, you know, they did certain things. The thing is this though, you know.

Zarbock: Tension reducer.

Kosa: Exactly correct. You know, you're working with the wounded brought in and the thing is this though, even yet today, let me say this to you, if I hear a helicopter, I'm back in Vietnam again, because when I heard a helicopter, I immediately ran up to the emergency room because they landed there and they brought in those that were wounded or those that were killed in action. One of the good friends that I had there who had been brought in once, he was wounded, and then I got to know him real well. I says, "You know what, when this doggone war is over with, let's get together." He says, "Chaplain, that'd be the nicest thing." I said, "You tell me where you're gonna be, I'll tell you where I'm gonna be and then maybe we can see each other." So then he told me he's going back to his unit again and he did. He went back to his unit and I was still there yet and then about there weeks later we lost him, you know, men who were killed in action were brought in, so I was looking to see who they were and everything, there was my friend. Well, you know they say grown men don't cry. You don't know how many times I cried, really. I did the same thing in Korea when the men who were killed in action were brought to the aid station, I would go out there and say my prayers over them. You know what, you don't know how many times I asked, "My God, why, why?" But there was one of the things that I did do while there in Vietnam, I saw that all the men that were in their beds and all that, the Red Cross girl would come around and give them books to read. Well after awhile they would, you know, they could read just so much, and I asked her, I said, "Is there anything that you people can get that they could work with their hands?" "Oh, we don't do that, Chaplain." I says, "Cut it out! This is to help those men over there." Well, I got nothing out of the Red Cross. I wrote a letter home back to Dover, New Jersey, had a good friend there who had a church. He used to be a Navy chaplain, Hugh Miller, and I said, "Hugh, I need kits that you can build cars out of, you can build airplanes, you can build these different things, you know, with the balsa wood and all that. Can you send me kits?" I got four huge crates of kits sent to me in Vietnam. I took those kits, went along to all the beds, I say, "Here fellas, which one would you like to work with?" and they selected what they wanted. And I said, "Once you're finished, would you want to give them back to me or would you want to hold onto them?" "Well, let's decide when we get close." But everyday, in fact I visited those men in that hospital there five times a day, constantly, working with them, talking with them, and then working with them with the kits and everything, and when they were finished, I said, "If you give it back to me, you know what I'm going to do with them? I'm going down to Kanto, I'm going to take some of my aid men with me, we're going to take a couple of jeeps. There's an orphanage down there and we're going to give it to those orphans down there." Every one of them said, "Chaplain, take it, give it to them." And I did. I took I don't know how many Jeeps with me, I told my commanding officer there, he was a doctor, an MD, what I'm doing, so consequently, I went down there, I says, "Fellas," and I stood back, "give it to those children there and you ought to see the smile on their faces and they're showing their airplanes, they try to get it going and all that, the cars on the ground," I says, "Aww." Using the term I killed two birds with one stone. But, and I think for that, what I did there, and I don't want to brag, they gave me the bronze medal. What I did there at the hospital while I was there.

Zarbock: For extraordinary meritorious work.

Kosa: Right, right.

Zarbock: Chaplain, I'm going to jump shift and ask a question I've asked all other chaplains. Was there ever a time in your military career when you were asked, suggested or slyly nudged and winked at to do something that you thought was against your personal ethic and belief?

Kosa: Being that I got to know every one of my commanding officers, even the (laughs) one that I had the little problems with, we became very close friends. The answer to that is never, never did any of them. In fact, they backed me up one hundred percent, really, which I was really, really happy over. And all of them, and let me say this to you, when I was stationed at Fort Benning, I would go see my commanding officers many times, I'd go into their office, and I'd look at their desk there. In fact, some of them even said, "I see you looking. Are you surprised that I have the bible here?" I says, "No. I know you."

Zarbock: Chaplain, final question, your whole life experiences, civilian, military, as a little boy, up until now, what have you learned about life? If you had a few minutes to address your wife and family and wanted to tell them what you really believed in, what would you say?

Kosa: My whole life, in fact more so today than ever before, and I think that's because too, being in the military, there is a God, and I get a little bit upset when they say "Awesome God," and I hear that constantly, "Awesome God," and I say, "I don't use that word." To me, God is the most loving thing on the face of this earth. He loves us and that to me means more than anything else. I'm a child of His. My family's been brought up that way. I have a wife that thinks that way too, that God, in fact, many times, let me say this to you, that I used to work for Sussex County where I lived, it's a county. I don't, I'm retired from that, but they still always call on me to say the prayers at the meetings or banquets and all that. And many times when I get up to say the prayers, it seems that the politicians want to have my blessing or something, but anyway, I say, "I hope you people don't mind, but you can bow your heads or you can do anything you want to, but I'm gonna have a little conversation with my good Lord, and that's the way I'm gonna be praying this morning." And that's what I do, as if I'm talking back and forth with God.

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