Sunday, November 18, 2007

Forgotten War - Part 1

With the recent passing of Veteran's Day, I thought it important to write about something that disappointed me in talks of celebrating our veterans. I was as guilty as many others and it was my grandmother that pointed out my negligence. As I preached to remember our veterans I spoke of World War I, World War II, Vietnam, Desert Storm and todays war. My grandmother wrote and reminded me of the 'Forgotten War' - The Korean War - my grandfather's war.

My grandma said, "I think the Korean War is the forgotten War. I am sure though that whichever war anyone went through was the worst, and at that time it was. The blog on communication reminded me that your Uncle Skosh was three weeks old before your grandpa got the wire he had been born."

Her words inspired me to learn more about the Korean War and how it affected my grandparents. As I have grown, I have heard about him serving in the war, but was too young to truly appreciate his service to our country. This past week I have spent learning about the man that I have been fortunate enough to grow up with. I have a strong bond with my grandparents, so do all of their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.


In May of 1950, my grandpa's older brother, Leroy was in the Navy. He was stationed in Japan and home on leave to attend grandpa's high school graduation. With the threat of the Korean War, his leave was cancelled and he was sent back to Japan before graduation day.

The draft was reopened and Oklahoma's 45th was called back to duty. They were to mobilize in September of 1950. A campaign began state wide to 'Join Now and Go With the Boys You Know'.

When he was 18 years old, my grandpa and his buddy, 'Cotton' enlisted in the Army National Guard in Shawnee, Oklahoma. His other buddy, Don, who I have known as Uncle Don my whole life, had already enlisted. They joined Company D of the 180th Infantry, 45th Division. This was before Social Security Numbers were used for identification and grandpa and Cotton were issued consecutive numbers. On September 9th, 1950, they left Shawnee by train for Ft. Polk, Louisiana.

The 45th came home heroes from World War II. Being from a state with an Indian history and so many Native Americans in the 45th, it was held in high esteem as this gave Indians the opportunity to be warriors. The pow-wows still reflect that 'warrior heritage' today. They trained and filled their ranks with draftees.

A large number of the draftees were from the large cities in the east, the majority of the Oklahoma boys were from small towns and farms and a lot of that majority was Native Americans. The Oklahoma boys had the advantage of already knowing how to use a rifle; the city boys didn't know one end of the rifle from another. This brought about a lot of jokes and puns.

Pepaw's last leave before shipping to Japan was in March of 1951. He and my grandmother eloped on March 19th, 1951. My grandma and her family took grandpa back to Fort Polk and went to California for a few weeks to see family. When they got home, she found out she was expecting a baby.

Grandma moved in with her parents, worked in a drug store and went to night school at a business college. Pepaw's salary was $80 a month; $40 of that went to Memaw. Grandpa sent back part of his poker winnings to help out until he returned in June of 1952.

The more I learned about my grandparents, the more I wanted to know. It has been said that they came from a 'different generation'. I feel the need to write about that a little more in the following days.