The Forgotten War
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Over the weekend, we visited my husband’s grandfather, Bill. Since my health issues have prevented me from socializing for such a long time, it had been awhile since we had last seen him.
Normally, we visit him and his wife near Thanksgiving and Christmas anyway; but this year was different. Mick’s grandfather just turned 80 this Fall, and he just experienced a health scare a couple of weeks ago.
So, after our Church service and having Nicole’s picture taken with Santa, we went to see him.
We always have a great time visiting with Mick’s grandfather and his wife. However, this time, his wife had a Church function and she was not there. It was the first time we have ever visited him while she was not there.
While we would have really enjoyed seeing her and spending time with her, Bill shared more about his past than I had ever heard him talk about before. It was such a special and treasured moment, I can hardly describe it.
Normally, he does not speak often because he had a tracheotomy about 15 years ago. Since he has to use a speaking device for communication, he avoids talking too much and lets his wife do most of the talking.
Hearing his stories was such a treat and sharing his experiences was priceless.
Bill grew up during the Great Depression. I asked him if he remembered it, and he said “yes, better than I would have liked.”
After Bill became an adult, he voluntarily signed up to be a US Marine during the Korean War. He was deployed to Korea on the front-line. He actually received his draft notice while serving overseas. He took his notice and went to his Sergeant and said “I gotta go home. I’ve been drafted!” It was a comical moment in a dark time.
He described the conditions and battle scenes to us, and I had to shudder. I just kept shaking my head thinking of the devastation our front-line soldiers witness in battle.
The complete hell he experienced must have been excruciating. Bill described the insane amount of North Koreans and their Chinese allies that kept charging the American line. He said there were so many that it looked like a colony of ants crawling down an ant hill. They just kept coming, one right after another.
Bill said most of the North Koreans and practically all of the Chinese really did not have any modern weapons. They had very little clothing in the freezing cold, and they only wore tennis shoes.
He said that they did not care if they died; they kept coming regardless if they had anything to fight with or not. He was not sure if they were fighting so hard for the “cause” or if they just did not care whether they died because of the alternative: torture at the hands of the Communist regime.
The battles were ugly, with many enemy casualties at the hands of our Marines to gain ground.
When he was not in battle, Bill and his company had to contend with frigid and dark conditions. The temperature would reach over 40 below 0. They had limited gear, supplies and food; so he had to make do with what little he could find.
Most meals consisted of beans, and when he held the can over the fire to cook the beans, by the time he could get the bottom to start boiling, the top would start frosting over again. The bubbles would freeze.
He went months without a shower; and he had nothing better to wipe his nose with than his arm.
When he finally returned to a ship, the first thing he did was take a shower. The snot that he wiped on his arm had caused the hair on his arm to crust over and mat the hair so much that it had to be cut out.
After he took his uniform off, he took a look in the mirror and he saw skin and bones. He said he looked like a skeleton.
No shower had ever felt better; and he has never taken a shower for granted since.
After he shared his experience with us, I felt extremely emotional. Luckily, he started showing pictures of the family afterwards and I was distracted.
Later, he walked me around the house to show me other pictures. When we came to a certain wall, he had all of his medals displayed in boxes. I had never seen so many medals. I looked at his patches and medals, and took it all in. Then, I noticed the Purple Heart. I could not contain myself anymore. I lost it.
I broke down right in front of him, hugged him, and whispered “Thank You.” Just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes.
Thinking of all of our brave soldiers that have served our great country now and in the past made me feel grateful for their sacrifice. These honorable men and women could have lost their lives defending our freedoms; Freedoms like taking a shower, having meals, worshiping freely, and playing with our kids! They did and do the hard stuff so we can live our lives.
Just look at what happened when the Korean War ended. The North remained Communist and the South became liberated. South Korea has a functioning society, a better economy, and greater resources than the North. In fact, if you look at a satellite image of North and South Korea at night, the North is so poor that it is completely dark compared to the South.
Bill insists that the US could have liberated all of Korea if the US would have provided the right amount of supplies and materials to “get the job done.” He said “we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in today with worrying about North Korea going nuclear had we finished the job back then.”
When looking at his badges, I saw one that said “The Korean War, the Forgotten War.” Other than the TV series Mash, it does seem to be forgotten in modern times. It fell between “the war to end all wars” World War II, and a highly controversial and protested war, Vietnam.
Well, to Bill and all of our other veterans out there, we REMEMBER. We remember the sacrifice you have made for us, and we thank you. We thank God for you; and watching your great granddaughter running around, dancing, singing and skipping off to her nice warm bed is evidence of the great service you gave to our country.
About Rebecca Droeger
Last week: Road to One World-ry
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