Never stopped serving: ‘Shorty’ Osborn is a vet who helps vets
Published 6:00 am Wednesday, November 11, 2020
Richard “Shorty” Osborn served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War, and the lessons he learned from his time in the service have helped fuel his efforts to serve other veterans ever since he got out of the military in 1970.
Most people who know him in Farmville know him as Shorty, a nickname he has had for most of his life.
“Yes, ever since a little kid,” he said.
And most people who know him in Farmville know him for his cooking abilities.
“I’m the fish in The Fishin’ Pig restaurant,” he said. “I am responsible for making the breading for the catfish and the green tomatoes and the chicken, making sure that that’s done correctly. But I primarily do cooking shows on the road.”
Another significant part of Osborn’s public life, though, is represented by his service to his fellow veterans, something he has been involved in for nearly 50 years.
This service was preceded by his own time in the military.
He joined the Air Force in 1966.
“The Air Force was appealing to me, and I had also talked to a recruiter, and I thought that might be a good fit for me, and it was at the height of the Vietnam War, and I figured, ‘Well, if I join, I won’t get drafted,’” he said with a laugh. “Well, it didn’t matter — I still got sent to Vietnam. I was injured there, but I stayed in country. I was in a little place called Ban Me Thuot up in the Central Highlands of Vietnam.”
Osborn said he was assigned to serve on the Cobra helicopter gunship pad in Vietnam, where he helped provide protection for the helicopters.
“The helicopters were called Cobras, and we got hit five to seven nights a week,” he said. “Of course, we spent quite a bit of time underground.”
He noted the weapons being used against him, his fellow soldiers and the helicopters were mostly mortar rounds.
“We took some small-arms fire on the compound, but what the Viet Cong were trying to do was disable the helicopters,” he said. “They can replace me the next day. They couldn’t replace that chopper the next day. But we fended them off quite well. We had great defense.”
Nevertheless, he described the experience as “harrowing, to say the least, some nights.”
One of his four years in the service was spent in Vietnam.
“I would say that I had so many great experiences, other than Vietnam,” he said. “I was stationed in Japan for a while and Puerto Rico for a while. But I guess the military, it matures you greatly, to say the least.”
After he got out of the military, he went to college and got his degree.
Also, he estimated it was within a year of leaving the service that he joined the Thomas Hardy Graham Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 7059 in Farmville.
He affirmed having a burden to help his fellow veterans.
“I wasn’t so terribly involved in the VFW, so to speak, as far as meetings and things like that were concerned, but I felt the need to help veterans in other ways, which I continue to do to this day,” he said.
Osborn has a regular reminder of the struggles veterans can face given the fact he still carries his war injury with him.
“I’m still suffering from it every day, every day,” he said. “It was a back injury, and you don’t get over back injuries.”
He was the first president of the Piedmont Area Veterans Council, which is based in Farmville and serves as a community partner by connecting veterans to services and resources they may need. He briefly explained part of what he did during his time with the council.
“What we tried to do was to rotate, get other veterans active as serving either on the board or as officers in that organization,” he said. “And it’s a wonderful organization. (Chief Executive Director and Founder) Sarah Maddox, you can’t give that woman enough kudos for what she’s done for the veterans in Prince Edward County, of course, and surrounding counties too. And also helping veterans with doing their claims and things like that, getting them help also, and their families.”
Both now and for years now, Osborn has actively worked to do fundraisers for the VFW, American Legion and other organizations too.
“Whenever somebody says, ‘Hey, we want to do a fundraiser for the veterans,’ then I am an active part of that as far as cooking and donating my time and not only donating my time but donating the product that I make,” he said. “I also donate that too. I don’t charge them anything for it.”
He indicated that he garnered valuable character traits from his time in the service, and he said the greater part of what it meant to him to be a soldier was something those four, formative years taught him.
“It taught you how to do what you’re told to do when you’re told to do it,” he said.
He also highlighted the most valuable thing he learned from his time in the service.
“I would say the most valuable thing was the discipline that I learned and that I never deviated from that to this day,” he said.