The other day, I was watching a military program with my father. It was about the Korean War, specifically the Chosin – or the Frozen Chosin, as my father calls it. He didn’t get to Korea until after that incident, thank goodness. But this show had film clips, photographs, interviews with Marines who survived…It was horrific.
As a civilian, I cannot possibly understand what soldiers go through – the sacrifices they make to serve the military. I will, hopefully, never see what they have seen, never do what they have done; I will never go through what they have gone through, or will go through in the future. I will never see dead bodies stacked like cord-wood, use a friend’s dead body as a sandbag so I can stay alive, never see 11 soldiers left out of over 200. Never.
God willing, never.
My dad, on watching this, said that when he was there, his unit was lucky. They had casualties – I think he said about 25%, but injuries only, no deaths. He not only managed to stay alive and unhurt, but managed that in a position (forward point observer, armed artillery) that had a life expectancy measured in minutes. He has told me of a few close calls – under fire, he and a buddy decided to move to a foxhole that was a little higher and seemed a little better built. Just as they got to it, the one they had just left took a direct hit. He and his driver got lost, so he sent his driver to check out what a sign said while headed out to a rise in the middle of a field to try to get their bearings. He retraced his steps very carefully when his driver informed him that the sign said it was a mine field. He tells of propping up dead bodies to use as a warning not to use a certain road – because when supplies were brought by the road, the shelling would begin. He tells of another soldier, in a different unit, thanking him for helping to save his life – because dad was directing the fire that gave his unit some relief. He tells of getting his aim just exactly right – and blowing up half a mountain from the dead on hit of a cave with an enemy weapons and armament cache. He tells funny stories of the war, also – stories of people that would rival any MASH episode.
Despite the funny stories, I will never understand the things that my dad has seen and gone through. And I am very grateful for that. I am grateful that I will probably never be a refugee. Never see my personal home shelled. Never flee, with only what I can carry with me. Never.
So – for all of my friends in the military, for friends of friends, for total strangers. For the ones who have been there, are there now, or will be there in the future: