Local veteran defeated polio and served as a navy in the Vietnam War
As a child, doctors told Ronald Elsaeasser he could never walk. But that didn’t stop him from serving on the front lines of the Vietnam War, in which more than 47,000 US servicemen were killed.
At the age of seven, Elsaesser was diagnosed with polio, listed by the Cincinnati Health Department as the 209th victim of the disease in 1952, according to an Inquirer article from that year.
Every day, William Elsaesser, Ronald’s father, would exercise his son’s legs until Ronald could walk, said Dan Elsaesser, Ronald’s brother and owner of The Farm, which has been a West Side institution for over. 80 years old.
Defying the expectations of doctors, Ronald enlisted in the Marine Corps at a time when many young men were enlisting, covering up the fact that he suffered from polio as a child.
“He didn’t want them to find out because he was afraid they wouldn’t accept him into the military,” Dan said. “… He didn’t want to let his disability keep him from serving his country.”
According to a December 1966 Cincinnati Post & Times-Star article, Ronald graduated from rookie training in 1966 and was awarded the “Leather Collar Medal” for achieving the highest score in his platoon at the Shooting Range. Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. .
“I am sure you will be happy to hear that your son has progressed so well in his training,” Lt. Col. RT Lawrence wrote in a letter to Ronald’s father. “We all believe that he will do well in the Marine Corps and that he will continue to be a source of pride and satisfaction for you, his Corps and his country.”
Ronald was sent to Vietnam the same week his twin brother Donald Elsaesser, who served as a military policeman in Saigon, returned, according to a 1968 Post article.
He was promoted to the rank of corporal while stationed near Hue, a city in central Vietnam, the article said.
In a letter written to his family, Ronald described his experiences abroad.
“We just got a note to get our equipment ready and ready to move north within a week or so,” he wrote. “One of my best buddies was killed three days ago, about three miles from Phu Bai. It really made me feel bad … He was ambushed while on patrol.”
“We came to Vietnam together, and he only had 53 days left,” Ronald added. “I can’t wait until my time is up, and I can see The Farm again.”
His friend’s death deeply affected Ronald, Dan said, adding that years later Ronald contacted the man’s family in Chicago, only to find they didn’t know who he was talking about.
“Ronnie didn’t like showing emotion. But he cried to me on the phone that this Chicago family forgot this man had ever lived,” Dan said.
After returning home from Vietnam, Ronald struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder, although he found solace in religion, Dan said. “He went through tough times.”
Ronald died on April 24 at the age of 75. He is survived by his two daughters and his five grandchildren.
A celebration of her life will take place at The Farm on June 2 at 6 p.m. Family, acquaintances and Vietnam War veterans are welcome.
“He was a cheerleader,” Dan said of his older brother. “If you were down, Ronnie would pick you up.”