Lawrenceburg veteran has Memorial Day to remember

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By Brittany Fuller

Anderson County native Tom Ritchey served in the U. S. Army from 1957 to 1959, and recently was able to get back in touch with a fellow soldier he served with at the Pentagon.

Ritchey served with Allan O’Brien as part of the Pentagon’s motor pool, and had not seen nor heard from him since they finished their time together in 1959.

Ritchey said he made $78 a month back in the late 1950s working for the U.S. Army. He started out working the day shift for the Pentagon motor pool, and then received an award for safe driving. After which Ritchey said that he sold gas for 28 cents a gallon at the filling station.

After finding O’Brien’s phone number he was able to speak to him several times before he was later hospitalized. Ritchey said O’Brien suffers from a collapsed lung, and has been given six months to live.

“I was going through my Army records out at the house to find my DD214 and I found his address,” said Ritchey. “We spent a lot of time together, 19 1/2 months. After running across his address I figured I would look him up and figured he would be dead.”

Ritchey was able to locate O’Brien a little over six months ago in a Veterans Affairs Hospital in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

“(In the motor pool) we drove whomever they called out,” said Ritchey. “We drove everyone from a civilian to a four star general. One time I picked up a fella’ who was Ritchey, and my name was Ritchey, and we were headed to Ft. Ritchie.”

Since O’Brien is in failing health, Ritchey said he wanted to go visit him and was able to make that trip this last Memorial Day weekend with the help of his pastor Scott Osborn from Shiloh Christian Church.

“We drove up Thursday night, visited Friday, then drove back,” said Ritchey. “I am glad I went to see him because one thing I wanted to know is if he had been saved. He said he had made that confession in 1953 so that made me feel better.”

Ritchey said O’Brien did not believe it was him when he first saw him at the hospital.

“I called him and the first thing he said was is this the Ritchey I was in the Army with,” said Ritchey. “I can remember your wife’s name Susie, and I can remember your favorite song you used to play ‘Wake up little Susie.’ When we walked in and surprised him he was looking awful concerned. Then he said ‘I’ll be darned.’”

They were serving O’Brien breakfast when Ritchey and Osborn arrived, and he said O’Brien pushed his tray back and they were able to visit for over an hour and a half talking and catching up on life over the past 58 years.

When asked if there were any others he served with that he would try and find, Ritchey said, “One I might, but all I know is his last name and that he lived in New Jersey so I don’t know if I will get a hold of him. After those many years you are lucky to find anyone I guess.”