It was Moon’s experience in Japan, witnessing a family-oriented, Olympics-like event, that gave him the idea for doing something similar here. That ultimately turned into the Junior Olympics, hosted by La Jolla Kiwanis every year and held at La Jolla High School Stadium, in which hundreds of local students, boys and girls, participate.
The Chicago native was a combat pilot shot down over North Vietnam during the Vietnam War, and he was a POW for several years. One of his cellmates was John McCain, the Arizona senator and former Republican presidential candidate.
Moon once gave a speech to Kiwanis about his POW experience. “Harrowing” is not the word for what he and others endured for our country. He recalled how he was physically tortured, once being tied together with another POW, with whom he became lifelong best friends.They held each other up; otherwise, one or both of them would have fallen and been severely injured given their depleted conditions.
Worse than even the physical beatings was the long periods of isolation Moon and his colleagues endured. They were able to communicate only by Morse code, tapping on their cell walls.
Moon told of “movie night” in the POW camp, where, to pass the time and remain connected with their native lands and their pasts, each prisoner recounted his favorite films, scene by scene. But what was truly remarkable about this man was not just his love for country — or what he sacrificed for it — but the amount of forgiveness in his heart and soul.
Moon returned to North Vietnam many years after his imprisonment. He gave another speech to Kiwanis afterward, noting that the majority of people there are so young — and that so much time has passed since — that the war is largely just a distant memory there.
Moon said he was in favor of normalizing relations between the nations, pointing out he felt it was the right thing to do. I remember him also being outspoken in favor of McCain’s 2008 presidential bid – though Moon was the first to remark, after McCain lost, that we all needed to get behind president-elect Barack Obama.
Richard (Moon) Mullen was one of a kind. I share some of these recollections of him in the hope that others can benefit from his experience — and wisdom — and learn to be more kind and thoughtful of our fellow human beings.
Moon can never be replaced. And he certainly will never be forgotten.
— Dave Schwab