Thursday, November 22, 2007

Forgotten War - Part 3

After grandpa returned from the war, he did what everyone else did, he moved on. There were no fancy parades like after World War I and World War II where it was a decided victory. It wasn't like after Vietnam where soldiers came home to be spit on, called names and cursed. They simply came home and returned to their lives as best they could.

The soldiers of Korea fought what has been called, "One of the bloodiest battles in US history." In the Korean War there were almost 34,000 casualties in the three years of US involvement. That doubles the annual Vietnam losses. In the Korean War, soldiers and marines earned 132 Medals of Honor, more than was even awarded in World War I. All of that mattered little when these soldiers returned home. The Korean War Memorial was dedicated in 1995, 13 years after Vietnam's Memorial Wall went up and a full 42 years after the fighting stopped in Korea.

Korea was the United States' first conflict in the Cold War. It was Russia's test of the US at resistance to the proliferation of communism. It was a new war for the US. It was a political, strategic attempt to deny the spread of communism into South Korea. Soldiers like my grandfather knew they were not fighting for ticker-tape parades and an extravagant military victory. They fought for, and successfully resisted Communist aggression into South Korea, which affects us still today.

My grandfather and fellow soldiers returned home and went on with their lives. Grandma says my Uncle Skosh was short, fat and 8 months old when Pepaw got home. A group of the local guys came to see him. One of them (a friend to this day) brought a little pair of shoes from Japan. He took a look at my uncle and said 'Sukoshi' (Japanese for little) and that became his nickname. Today, it has been shorten to S'kosh.

One of the first things he did was join the American Legion in Tecumseh. He continued that association for fifty years; being active in post and district offices. He also was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He has been a member of the Masonic Lodge for over fifty years and has served as Worshipful Master in Springdale and Ozark, Arkansas while holding membership in the Tecumseh Oklahoma Lodge.

He has always been an active Deacon and Board Chairman in the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) wherever he has resided. He was a Boy Scout in Tecumseh and after he and grandma moved to Springdale, he was Scout Master for a boy scout troop (Age 12) and kept them until they went to college. In Springdale, he served for 16 years as a volunteer fire fighter. He was on the Shiloh Park Commission, City Planning Commission and was the Co-Coordinator and first Director of the Community Development Program.

As the Director, he was responsible for constructing sidewalks near grade schools, hard service play areas, Little League and Babe Ruth Parks. In addition to being an abstractor, he worked as a petroleum land man doing title work in southern Arkansas, Mississippi and Oklahoma.

When he was selected as Director of the Community Development Program, the out going mayor who appointed him was asked why he chose my grandpa because grandpa wasn't in the political circle. The mayor replied, 'Because he doesn't owe anybody.'

Pepaw sees things in black and white; it either is or it isn't. When he was a Scout Master, boys began to transfer into his troop. When he finally asked why, the boys said it was because he always does what he says he will do. When he planned a camping trip, he never called it off; whether one boy or fifteen, he took them camping. Rain and snow or sunny and hot, there were no cancellations and they won national camping awards because grandpa is a man of his word.

Supper time was family time. While their five children were in grade school, my grandmother was involved with Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, PTA and was the President of the American Legion Auxiliary. Whatever she did though, she was home by the time her children got out of school. Everyone was home for supper, grandpa insisted on it. There were no meetings, appointments or plans made that kept anyone away from family time. My grandma said, "It was a time to visit and learn what everyone was doing. It was a wonderful time that slipped away as the children grew up."

2008 will mark the last year of the reunion of the Korean Veterans of Company D, 180th Infantry in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Uncle Don is in charge of it this time. For a number of years now they have met every two years but death and health has taken it's toil. These veterans have come from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Michigan and other states to Shawnee to meet life long army buddies and friends. They sit and talk and joke. When the topic gets too serious, their voices cease and they look in space, each with his own memories.

I am proud of Pepaw's service to our country and the opportunity I have to share that common bond with my grandfather.