WASHINGTON– U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized the service and sacrifice of Ronald Madsen in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series recognizing the military service of Arkansans.
Madsen grew up in Minnesota. His family had no history of military service so he didn’t know how they would react when he was drafted. “They probably weren’t happy about me getting drafted, but I was working with my dad at the time and what needed to be done I had to do,” he said.
His parents drove him to Minneapolis to take his oath of enlistment at the armory before boarding a bus to begin his basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri in 1953. Madsen was in good physical condition and knew how to use weapons from hunting back home, so there was some familiarity.
He recollected being in a movie theater when the film was interrupted to announce the end of the Korean War.
Although the war was ending, he continued training at Fort Belvoir, Virginia for two months of schooling in heating and ventilation. He was assigned to Fort Lewis, Washington before leaving for Japan the day after Thanksgiving.
Madsen said his ship was filled with servicemembers along with women and children whose husbands and fathers were stationed in Japan.
He was on guard duty on the deck one afternoon and had quite the surprise. “A flying fish came up and landed on the deck. The crew had never seen that before,” he laughed.
When Madsen first landed in Japan, he went to Camp Drake where he stayed until Christmas. Then he continued south to Busan, South Korea where he was stationed for 16 months.
He was assigned to a construction engineer battalion where he and his fellow soldiers were tasked with projects including outdoor construction building water towers and digging ditches. He recalled converting an old building constructed by the Japanese into a new hospital. Madsen said he was able to use a lot of the skills he had gained from his two months in school. However, after only six months with the construction group, he was reassigned to the mess hall.
“I got offered to be in the mess hall which I took them up on because it’s much nicer duty. You went in at noon to help serve the meal then you fix the supper and come back in the morning to fix breakfast and fix dinner then you’re off again. You had better duty and no outside cold and wet,” he said.
Madsen remembered how his fellow servicemembers all ate well, and there were many local citizens who baked desserts and helped with KP (kitchen patrol) duty.
When his deployment ended, Madsen resumed working with his father as a plumber. Soon after, he married Betty, a nurse he met while his mother was hospitalized. They were married for 64 years.
Madsen said he remembered being treated nicely when he returned home and even though his military service interrupted his life for a time, he was glad he had the opportunity to serve the country and “do what was necessary.”
He retired from his plumbing job when he was 65 and moved to Bella Vista where he has lived for the last 24 years.
“Serving in our nation’s uniform impacts the lives of servicemembers and their families. I am grateful to Ronald Madsen for his service and selflessness to defend our country and interests. Preserving his memories for the Veterans History Project is a great way to show our appreciation for his service,” Boozman said.
Boozman will submit Madsen’s entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans.