Vernon “Rip” Ribera

This week I traveled to Rockwall County and interviewed a veteran of both World War II and Korea; Master Sergeant Vernon “Rip” Ribera. We met at the 90-year-old’s quaint North-Texas home to discuss his captivating life from poverty to military service.

Before the Armed Forces, Vernon survived a plight of his own; childhood in Boswell, Oklahoma. Both of his parents had perished by age seven, leaving him and five other siblings to raise each-other. They worked “daylight ‘till dark” on a rural homestead with no running water or electricity. Often, Vernon would sneak off to the barn and consume horse and cow feed for a meal. “It was just a bleak existence” which dramatically changed in early-1945. Two months after graduating high-school, at age sixteen, Vernon Ribera enlisted in the Merchant Marines.

“I’m not 90! I’m 18 with 72 years of experience!”

Upon completion of basic training in Florida, Vernon was assigned to a liberty ship which soon after voyaged across the embattled Atlantic. He would serve two tours overseas, having traveled to South Africa, Belgium, Columbia, and Cuba. Upon his final return to the states, the two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, concluding all combat against Axis powers. He remained in San Francisco for several months following the end of World War II, essentially a civilian as he never redeemed his Merchant Marine contract. In result, he was drafted by the U.S Army in late-1945.

After years of rigorous training, Vernon achieved the rank of Master Sergeant. In the fall of 1950, his 45th Infantry Division was mobilized, and deployed for Korea. Vernon and his forty-eight men landed on the beaches of Inchon, where they were met by friendly South Korean forces and led to the west central front. In December of 1951, the first patrol commenced. Over the next hand full of grueling patrols, Vernon and his unit would be continuously “baptized by enemy bullets,” ultimately resulting in the horrendous deaths of four men; “I saw these boys get their heads blown off right next to me. This wasn’t your typical John Wayne shootout.” After a year of receiving baths every two months, Vernon and his remaining men were finally sent home.

As of today, Vernon Ribera remains very busy. He continuously dedicated his mornings to the American Legion in Rockwall, and actively operates a wood-shop out of his home garage.