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Manhasset Additions To Gold Star Honor Roll: Soldiers To Be Honored In Memorial Re-Dedication

On May 26, the American Legion Post 304 will be holding a re-dedication ceremony to recognize the addition of the names of Lieutenant Commander Harry S. Mossman (MHS ’61) and Captain Edward F. Miles (MHS ’62) to our Gold Star Memorials. The ceremony will be held at the Mary Jane Davies Green beginning at noon where our community is invited to join members of the Legion, and the family and friends of Harry and Ed in honoring them for their service and sacrifice during the Vietnam War.

Many of you might not know Harry Mossman and Ed Miles. The first time I read of these men was in an email forwarded to me and the other commissioners of the Manhasset Park District in the spring of 2011. The email was from Company Commander Richard Lennon, Captain USMC, (MHS ’58) who was clearly upset that the list of Manhasset Gold Star Families was not complete, This one email from a Vietnam Veteran who wanted only to ensure that his fellow soldiers were not forgotten has led me to discover two outstanding sons of Manhasset whose lives have exemplified courage and honor and who gave of themselves selflessly, making the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

When Ed Miles was receiving his diploma from Manhasset High School in 1962, I was three months old. As I played in the backyard of our Brooklyn home in 1965, Ed Miles was opening his draft notice. And while my neighbors and I celebrated the Amazin’ Mets improbable World Series win in October 1969, Capt. Edward F. Miles, U.S. Army special forces military advisor, was no doubt in a military hospital somewhere wondering if he would survive the severe bone, nerve and muscle damage he sustained when he stepped on a landmine in an ambush outside Cu Chi near the Cambodian border. Ed would lose both his legs above the knee, the use of his right arm, and sight in one eye, all as a result of the injuries he sustained serving his country. Ed would receive the United States Army Silver Star for Bravery, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, the Vietnamese Campaign Medal, the Air Medal, the Good Conduct and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge for his service but this was only the beginning of the story of Capt. Edward F. Miles.

Ed finally made it home and, despite the severity of his injuries and years of painful treatment, joined the anti-war movement, becoming an activist and co-founder of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. After receiving a masters of public administration from NYU, Ed worked as an outreach counselor for Vietnam veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. However, Ed is probably best known for his work with the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF) and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997. As an associate director of VVAF, Ed traveled the world helping war survivors, securing funds for much needed medical research and support. His efforts resulted in the building and staffing of a prosthetics clinic for amputees at Kien Khleang, outside Phnom Penh, Cambodia in 1991. This facility was the first of its kind in Cambodia and remains today a model for others around the world. As a result of Ed’s efforts, the VVAF has opened rehabilitation clinics in Vietnam, Angola, Ethiopia, Kosovo as well as Central America and sub-Saharan Africa, allowing thousands of people worldwide to regain their mobility and dignity.

Throughout his life, Ed continuously promoted peace and reconciliation through VVAF. He tirelessly lobbied the U.S. Congress and the White House to normalize diplomatic and trade relations with Vietnam and was one of the first Americans to return there, being featured on Nightline in 1989 ,visiting the site where he was wounded. Until his death in January, 2004, Ed lectured across the country about his experiences and the historical significance and lessons learned from the Vietnam War and participated in forums at The Hague as part of his involvement with the Institute for Conflict Resolution Studies. On July 14, 2004, Sen. Patrick Leahy memorialized Ed before the U.S. Senate describing him as “….softspoken and unassuming to a degree rarely seen…” but having a “…fiery passion for ridding the world of injustice and senseless conflict,” further recognizing his gentle kindness, generous heart and calling him a true humanitarian and hero.

A few years following Ed’s passing, the U.S. Surgeon General determined that Ed died as a result of the wounds he sustained in Cu Chi, and therefore, his death met the criteria set forth by the Department of Defense for inclusion of his name on the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial in Washington even though he would live another 35 years after he sustained his injuries. The name Edward F. Miles was engraved on the Wall, May 4, 2010.

While Ed Miles was on his way to serve his country in 1965, fellow Manhasset High classmate, Harry Mossman was graduating from Bates College in Lewiston, Me., earning a degree in English. It is no surprise that Harry would excel in college as he was a standout at Manhasset High School both in academics and athletics. A quiet, steady guy with a good sense of humor, Harry took advanced math classes, studied Latin for four years and was the recipient of the Latin Award his senior year at Manhasset. Michael Duffy, a friend, classmate, and Vietnam Veteran, U.S. Army, met Harry in Mr. Donald Swan’s sixth-grade class and recalled Mr. Swan admiring Harry’s “facility with baseball statistics.” Harry played baseball and football for Manhasset and would go on to run track and play football at Bates where he earned the nickname “Harry the Horse” because of his determination on the field. He also enjoyed chess and was an eloquent writer.

Harry met his wife Rocky at Bates College and by 1970 was in the United States Navy training new recruits on the A-6C at the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, WA. Harry would later write, “I have made government service in the Navy my career. I hope I can help the people of this nation in some small way by trying to make the part of the armed forces in which I serve use its vast power as wisely as possible in the preservation of this nation.” Mike Muson, a member of the VA-35 remembered Harry both as an instructor and a friend in a post on Harry’s Vietnam Memorial page. “Harry gave us great training and because of his help and instruction VA-35 had outstanding success with the A-6C in the Mediterranean. We became friends in that short time and I will never forget the service to his country and the sacrifice that he made.”

In the spring of 1972, Harry was aboard the USS Kitty Hawk on its first line period in Southeast Asia as a member of Attack Squadron 52 (VA-52). That summer, Rocky and several navy wives flew to Hong Kong to meet their husbands on the USS Kitty Hawk. She could not have known that it would be the last time she would see Harry. A month later, on August 20, 1972, an A6A, call sign Viceroy 502, launched from the deck of the Kitty Hawk to conduct a low-level night-armed reconnaissance/strike mission against a transshipment point along Route 183 at Da Mon Toi, a small town in North Vietnam and an important region to the North Vietnamese war effort. Weather conditions were poor. After checking in with the Kitty Hawk and Airborne Battlefield Command and Control, pilot Lieutenant Roderick B. Lester was given current mission and weather data before he and bombardier/navigator Lieutenant Mossman proceeded with the mission. The last known transmission from Viceroy 502 was received at 0145 hrs. Other Viceroy aircrews reported heavy and extremely accurate anti-aircraft artillery as well as severe thunderstorms in and around the target area. Visual and electronic searches were conducted by the remaining Viceroy crews but the visual efforts were hampered by darkness and weather. No emergency beeper signals were detected. Neither of the men ever returned from the mission. When search operations were terminated, both Lieutenant Lester and Lieutenant Mossman were declared Missing in Action.

In 2003, the Joint Task Force for Full Accounting returned to North Vietnam to search for Lieutenants Mossman and Lester. Several items were recovered from what was believed to be the crash site of Viceroy 502, including Harry’s Geneva Convention Card and bone fragments which, through DNA testing, were conclusively identified as belonging to Harry Mossman. Lieutenant Commander Harry Seeber Mossman’s remains were repatriated to the U.S. in January 2004 and finally laid to rest with full military honors on Aug. 30, 2004 at Tahoma National Cemetery, Kent, WA. Harry’s Commanding Officer Robert S. Owens later wrote, “Harry is a hero in my book. I am proud that I knew him.” Harry S. Mossman was the recipient of the Purple Heart, the Air Medal (7th Award), the Combat Action Ribbon, the Navy Unit Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Ribbon, the Vietnam Service Medal (with three bronze stars), the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces Meritorious Unit Citation and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.

Now you know Harry and Ed, the men being honored at the Mary Jane Davies Green, the former site of the Plandome Road School where Harry Mossman met Mike Duffy in Mr. Swan’s sixth-grade class. Down the street from the classrooms at Manhasset High School where Ed Miles began developing the skills he would later draw upon to advocate so bravely and brilliantly for those in need at home and abroad, just a few blocks over from the Mossman home on Bayview Terrace. During their visit in the summer of 1972, Harry showed his wife a letter that he wrote to his children, Thomas and William ages 4 and 2, which he asked be given to them if he didn’t make it home. In it, he wrote, “Many persons have learned things from the dead individual, whether by example of his deeds or the conscious attempts he made to teach his family and friends to accept life, or chance words that struck home. In some small way, living people share parts of his soul, conscious or otherwise.”

On May 26, we will share parts of the souls of both Harry Mossman and Edward Miles. Please honor them by attending the re-dedication ceremony at noon, May 26, 2012, Mary Jane Davies Green, on Plandome Road in Manhasset.