Salute to Veterans: Rizner served in many capacities
MIDDLEBURY — John Rizner wasn’t getting much out of high school in West Dudley, Mass., back in 1946. So he quit school and decided to get a tutorial from Uncle Sam, which turned into a 22-year-lesson with the United States Army that included a lot of international travel and service during two wars.
Now 85, Rizner looks back with pride and fondness on his experience in the military. It began with basic training at Fort Polk in Louisiana and eventually took him to Japan, South Korea, Germany and Vietnam. His red pickup truck is akin to a traveling passport, as his Army tour stops are written in big letters on the back of his vehicle that sits in his driveway off Creek Road in Middlebury.
“I got a check every week,” Rizner said with a smile, referring to the steady work he found as a company clerk at U.S. medical facilities in Japan, Korea and Vietnam.
Rizner took some time recently to reflect upon some of his military experiences. The member of Middlebury Legion Post 27 recalled the sometimes hectic pace of chores and the varied duties Army personnel had to adapt to, particularly during wartime. When he wasn’t processing paperwork, Rizner was pressed into service as guard or as a bus driver, collecting or delivering wounded soldiers to nearby airports. Some of these soldiers were badly wounded in battles in Korea and Southeast Asia, Rizner recalled. In Japan, Rizner was stationed at a military hospital in Osaka, Japan. He served with mobile units in Korea and Vietnam.
“I didn’t fire a weapon at the enemy,” Rizner noted, but he witnessed the effects of weapons on those injured on the battlefields. Rizner confessed to becoming physically ill during his initial contacts with severely wounded soldiers.
Rizner during his service in the Army
He recalled serving at a military hospital in Korea that was next door to a prisoner of war camp. He noted an occasion in which an inspection of the camp revealed an entire reassembled military truck that the prisoners had put together at an underground location using stolen parts.
Rizner added he would not have met his late wife had it not been for his time spent in the Army. He would marry Tsumiyo “Mickey” Rizner during his time in Japan. Tsumiyo had been working in an orderly room in the hospital at which Rizner was based. They eventually married and had four sons together. The couple was married for more than 50 years. She passed away in 2007.
After his service in Vietnam, Rizner and his family moved to Middlebury during the mid-1960s. He took a job in the ROTC office at Middlebury College until leaving military service in 1968 with the rank of first sergeant. He received a commendation medal from the Department of the Army for meritorious service, as well as a Korean Service medal.
After exiting the Army, he worked for more than a decade as a night supervisor at the former Simmonds Precision in Vergennes.
“I definitely recommend it,” Rizner said of a career in the military.
“It was an interesting job.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]
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