A letter written to the editor in the local newspaper caught my attention; the title of the letter was “That War is not Forgotten.” Written by a veteran of the Korean “conflict”, the man had finally broken his silence about his experience after 58 years.
My father was in Korea; he was drafted and left out when I was just a toddler. We went to stay with my mom’s sister in Las Vegas for a time while he was deployed. His military history was not part of my growing up; I remember when he got a draft letter for the Vietnam War and that is when I found out he had served as a Marine in Korea. He didn’t go to Vietnam; it was a mistake and he cleared it up. But I saw him somewhat differently than before; although, having no knowledge of war except for John Wayne movies, it still didn’t click.
In retrospect, I realize that Dad was totally changed by the Korean War. Although he was a wild child who rode around on motorcycles and played hard in his youth and during my childhood, I believe the war imprinted him in a horrific way that sent him into a spiral that eventually destroyed his health, his marriage and his relationship with his kids. We healed our relationship when I was an adult, but he never healed from that war.
When I called the author of the letter, a man in his 80’s, he spoke at length of that period in his life, and I could hear the sobs in his voice, and he had to take a few moments every once in a while to gain control. After all these years, his war experience in Korea still haunts him. He said he didn’t know why he felt compelled at this late date to have his say.
“The phone’s been ringin’ off the hook and people knock on my door to thank me for sharin’ my experiences during the war that was never declared a war but over 50,000 people died.” I said, “Maybe this is why you felt compelled. There were others that needed to hear it.” “One man”, he said, “told me I wrote his letter.”
He joked, half-heartedly, about how after finishing boot camp and he was ready to deploy to Korea, he asked his Sargent, “This is a round trip, right Sarge?” His Sargent didn’t reply, just looked back at him. That was when he realized it might not be.
This round trip to Korea got him back home, but like my father he was altered in ways that affected him to his core and changed the way he viewed life even after 58 years.
The photos of my dad (far left in the top photo and center in the one below) have been in our albums since I can’t remember when, and this is the first time I have actually displayed them. Maybe it will help others to express themselves about their round trip to the war they will never forget. Of course, if we ever forget about the horrific damage war inflicts upon humanity we will continue to play out these lethal war games that litter our history on this earth. So don’t forget, but work to stop the wars. It begins at home. Never forget.