Cpl. Arden Moser is a man who has been recognized by his country, and heard theaters across the country applaud his music.
But the day he gave her the compass was the day he got the only approval he ever truly wanted.
He now sits in a room filled with items such as his military commendations, trumpets that shared the stage with jazz legends and wood drums he played while teaching musicians in Kenya.
And yet the item he carried in his pocket every day to show people was that compass.
He’s been called an Army Ranger, television producer and band leader. But most of all, he likes that her kids called him “Dad.”
But before Arden Moser could have that compass, he and his company would need to find their way home after being caught 9 miles behind enemy lines during the Korean War.
Arden Moser was born Jan. 1, 1929, in Carey, Ohio, where we would live with his parents and older sister until the family moved to his beloved hometown of Upper Sandusky, 15 miles south of Lake Erie.
He learned to play and love music music while in Sandusky, but receiving a formal arts education was almost out of the question.
“My sister had been able to go to college on scholarship, but I had never been as smart as my sister and scholarships for myself were out of the question,” he said.
But by the time his high school graduation came, Moser had concocted a plan that would get him to college for free, and at the same time he could continue to play his music.
“I decided to join the service,” said Moser. “I went in there for one reason and it wasn’t because I was patriotic … It was because they had finally settled on the G.I. Bill.”
Heading Out West
“I made it clear to (the recruiters) that I was only doing it so I could afford school,” said Moser. “So, I talked them into putting me into me in the band training service.”
On July 1, 1947, Private First Class Moser arrived at Fort Jackson, S.C., where he was ordered to take up a trumpet in one hand and an M-1 rifle in another. And unlike the other greenhorns, who only had to complete 13 weeks of basic military training, Moser was required to complete the standard training in addition to eight weeks of drilling with the 5th Division Band.
When he had finally completed his “schooling,” the trumpeter-turned-rifleman was once again shipped off, but this time to Fort Bliss, Texas, a military base located on the U.S. and Mexico border in El Paso.
The young musician, who had only joined the Army to pay for college, remarked that it was his first experience playing in a professional band.
Back from the South
Following World War II, the United States Army went through a period of “demobilization,” meaning that budget cuts by President Harry Truman had taken the once large military from 12 million personnel to 1.5 million personnel by 1947 — a 90 percent overall decrease, according to the Office of the Chief of Military History, United States Army.
“I was so scared and I asked them, ‘But what about my G.I. Bill? I only joined so that I could go to college,’” Moser recalled.
His commanding officer presented Moser with a solution, telling him to “join the reserves.”
And after returning home on Nov. 30, 1948, after a year of service, Moser would get married, find work, complete at least one year of school with the money he had saved while enlisted, and sign up for the reserves.
The Far East
In what would be considered one of the first major global incidents as a result of the Cold War, the “police action in Korea” resulted in the mass deployment of U.S. forces to the peninsula through the summer and fall of 1950, according to the Office of the Chief of Military History, United States Army.
However, due to Truman’s call for mass demobilization in the years immediately following the war, the same policy that had removed Moser in the first place, he was now considered a different kind of asset.
“I went from being in the band, to having some guy looking at my records and saying, ‘He’s had some training already so let’s make him a (1st Ranger),’” said Moser.
An elite airborne light infantry group, 1st Ranger Infantry Company was used only during the Korean War, and has been described as a small group of special forces who specialized in “irregular warfare.”
“We had to learn everything from riflery, to scouting to even survival training in case we had pushed too far and were cut off,” said Moser. “It was a lot of heavy lifting and a lot of crawling through the mud.”
For his part in the Korean War, Moser served as the “typical” Ranger, he said, working to creatively disrupt or impede enemy logistical operations all the while pushing further and further behind Chinese military lines.
And by Jan. 16, 1951, the Rangers were called upon to readily throw themselves into known Chinese ambushes as their elite group, with a trumpeter among them, provided the vital intelligence and pressure needed for an American and United Nations counteroffensive.
Moser was honorably discharged from the 1st Ranger Infantry Company on July 30, 1951, after having served in the 5th Division band, Army Reserves and Army Rangers for a total of four years, one month and 18 days.
Moser ended as an E-3 corporal and earned a Korean service medal for his conduct during the first few months of the Korean War.
After returning home, Moser finally finished college, worked in TV stations as a producer across the country and continued to play in bands.
But while his professional life continued to flourish, his home life had quickly deteriorated. While he had three daughters who “he still loves dearly,” the divorce papers between him and his first wife had already been drafted.
Then, on a business trip to the Atlanta area where he had lived for a handful of years after the war, Moser decided to call up an old neighbor of his by the name of Mary Faith.
“She gets on the phone and says that she had just got divorced,” said Moser. “To which I responded, ‘Mary Faith, what a coincidence, because I am getting divorced, too. Would you like to go to dinner with me?’”
Moser says they had not seen one another in 17 years, but by the end of that first date they “had fallen in love.” The very next morning he called his lawyer, and told him to send the divorce papers through.
On his way home from calling the lawyer, Moser was walking by a storefront when a “little plastic compass inside the display” caught his eye.
“Mary Faith the previous night had said the divorce had left her ‘feeling lost,’” explained Moser. “So, I bought the compass, went home and inserted a little piece of paper inside the clasp that read, ‘So that you may never get lost again.’”
Moser and Mary Faith married on Dec. 30, 1983, and were together for the next three decades,
“She had Alzheimer’s and it forced us to move to an assisted living home together,” said Moser. “And one day, after years of not thinking about it, I saw that compass sitting on her nightstand. And although she was very sick at that point, she always remembered to pick up the compass before she left her bedroom during the day and always put it back on the nightstand at night.”
And after Mary Faith died, Moser continued her legacy by carrying that compass every day.
“She was a very special lady and marrying her was the finest thing I ever did in my life,” said Moser. “She was the greatest thing that ever happened to me, and still to this day that compass was the most important thing I ever owned.”