Flag Flies for Ronald Campsey

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In continuing its mission to take history out of the textbooks by honoring a local veteran each month of the school year, the Hampton Bays School District is paying tribute to Vietnam Veteran Ronald Campsey by flying an American flag in his honor throughout the month of June.

“The Hampton Bays School District is proud to honor Mr. Campsey for his service to the United States,” said Superintendent of Schools Lars Clemensen.

The American flag was raised during a Flag Day ceremony held at the Hampton Bays Elementary School on June 14. During the event, second-graders read Mr. Campsey’s biography and celebrated the American flag by singing traditional patriotic songs.

Ronald Campsey, known to many as Ronny, was born in San Antonio, Texas on June 29, 1942. He was raised in Devine, Texas, where he graduated from Devine High School in June of 1960.

Upon graduation, Mr. Campsey worked at Kelly Air Force Base and, in 1962, he followed his girlfriend, Geraldine, back to her hometown of Westbury, New York. As a result of the move, Mr. Campsey’s draft records were misplaced by the draft board until January of 1967, when he was drafted into the Army. He turned 25 that year.

Two months of basic training followed at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. He and approximately 50 other recruits then boarded a train for Fort Polk, Louisiana to complete Advanced Infantry Training. Upon graduation from AIT, Mr. Campsey took two weeks leave to marry Geraldine. He was then transferred to Fort Lewis, Washington where he boarded a boat to Vietnam.

The voyage to Vietnam took 23 days, with Mr. Campsey entering in the port city of Vung Tau. From there, he was flown to the air base at Bình Hòa, where he was assigned to base Camp Dian and completed a monthlong jungle warfare training.

Mr. Campsey’s baptism of fire came in October 1967 at the battle of Loc Ninh. In the heat of the battle, Campsey took an indirect hit from an enemy rocket propelled grenade. Despite his wounds, he continued fighting. He and another soldier flanked an enemy machine gun nest and destroyed it. He was awarded a Purple Heart for his injuries and a Silver Star for his heroic action in destroying the enemy machine gun nest.

After serving for several months, Mr. Campsey was eligible for and took a leave of “rest and recreation” in Hawaii with his wife.

After returning to Vietnam, Mr. Campsey was permitted to assume duties away from combat, but he felt it wasn’t right to leave his fellow soldiers. He requested to go back to the frontline and was promoted to sergeant.

On May 1, 1968, Mr. Campsey’s unit took part in a 14-day field operation and a fierce firefight erupted approximately 1,800-meters from the base camp. A second battle took place on May 4, and five soldiers from Mr. Campsey’s unit were killed with 15 more wounded. During the May 1 engagement, a bullet passed through Mr. Campsey’s helmet but thankfully only grazed his scalp. For this service, Campsey was awarded two Bronze Stars.

On June 29, 1968 — Mr. Campsey’s 26th birthday — he rotated back to the United States and was transferred to Fort Dix, where he was assigned as an instructor. On December 20, 1968, he was honorably discharged.         

Mr. Campsey returned to civilian life in Westbury, where he bought a gas station with his brother. Soon after, he left the gas station business and opened an auto body shop. Seven years later, he sold the shop and opened the New Moon Café in East Quogue.

In August 1968, his twin girls were born, and two more children came in 1972 and 1774. However, the war in Vietnam continued to haunt Mr. Campsey with bouts of PTSD.  

In 1983, Mr. Campsey met his current wife, Shana, and together they had four daughters. Today, the pair manages the New Moon Café and Mr. Campsey is active in both the local business community, as well as various veterans’ causes concerning Vietnam veterans.