Forty Years Later Facebook Leads Vietnam Vet To Family of Soldier Who Saved His Life (Great Neck, New York; Livonia, Michigan) “The power of the Internet and Facebook has brought together a very grateful Vietnam War veteran and the family of the mortally wounded soldier who saved his life back in 1968.”
In 2003, Pat Moffett of Great Neck, New York wrote a book “Fortunate Soldier”, about his tour with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam. He dedicated the book to Arnold Sarna of Livonia Michigan, who was killed in Binh Duong in March 1968. Arnold was a “morning reports” clerk who lost his life when a Vietcong rocket hit his tent while he was asleep.
What’s unusual about this story is that the author never met Mr. Sarna, but credits Mr. Sarna with saving his life. In fact, Mr. Moffett wrote on his dedication page a personal thanks to his fallen comrade: “I didn’t forget”.
Mr. Moffett describes the story in his own words: “At the time of Arnold’s passing, I was a grunt slopping through the jungle in the area of our base camp near a hamlet called Phouc Vinh north of Saigon. But when I originally processed into the 101st my M.O.S. (Military Occupation Specialty) was II Bravo, better known as infantry, so I was assigned to a recon unit.
Just before leaving the interview with the Administration Officer, I made it known that I could type 80 words per minute, so if that service was needed I’d like to be considered for the job. “After coming in from the field a couple of weeks later, I was summoned to the Company Commander’s office and told that my typing skills would be needed and I would be filling the position vacated by Spec. 4 Arnold Sarna.
In Vietnam this is called “lucking out.” “After being in Phouc Vinh for a short time, the division decided to centralize the Morning Reports section in Bien Hoa, the largest and safest military complex in Vietnam a'” I lucked out again. “Not long after I arrived in Bien Hoa, I was summoned to the Company Commander’s office in the middle of the night.
When I got there I was told that my old field company had been overrun by a North Vietnamese regiment and the company had been wiped out. I was handed a list of all those killed in action, and since I had all the names and addresses of the next of kin, I was to immediately begin typing condolence letters on behalf of the brigade commander.
As I looked down the list of KIA’s, I noticed that one name was missing my own. The reason being was that when Arnold Sarna was killed, I was taken out of the overrun company. “I returned home from Vietnam in June of 1969, and for the next 40 years lived a fairly normal life. Every year I visit the Vietnam wall in Washington D.C. and I never fail to say a prayer where Arnold Sarna’s name is engraved, and to say thanks for being my hero. “Recently, a friend of mine told me about the website titled “The Virtual Wall” where additional information could be found on the families of those on the wall in Washington.
I had never heard of the Virtual Wall up to this point, so I decided to look up Arnold Sarna from my computer. “When I did so all the pertinent information came up that I already knew, but then something came on the screen that surprised me. It was a letter from Arnold’s sister, Debra Braden, written 7 years before that I found heartbreaking, and asking that anyone who knew her brother to please get in touch with her.
There was an e-mail address posted in Arnold’s section of the Virtual Wall, but when I tried to send an e-mail it just bounced back as though the address was no longer active. “A friend of mine offered to try to locate Debra Braden on Facebook, which I had no problem with, and sure enough we found Debra and I had a great conversation with her. “This has now led to the Sarna family inviting me to their home town of Livonia, Michigan, where I’ll be part of the Sarna family reunion. This will now give me the opportunity to say to Arnold Sarna’s family “I didn’t forget”.
Pat Moffett is and the author of the critically acclaimed books “Fortunate Soldier,” about his service during the Vietnam War and “Ice Cream in the Cupboard,” about his wife’s loss to Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease. He is a world renowned, award-winning business executive in Logistics Management, and was named to the Top 20 Logistics Executives, as well as named Long Island International Business Executive of the Year.
An expert in international trade, his articles and columns have appeared in journals, magazines, and trade publications. He is a lifetime member of the Vietnam Veterans of America.