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Mon père, ce héros

In many countries around the world, today has been a day for remembering the sacrifices of members of the armed forces and civilians in times of war. My own country, not having been involved in World War I, knows no such tradition, but still, I have been thinking of all the young men who have ever been sent out to fight in a foreign country and either not made it back, or returned profoundly changed by the experience. My father was one of the latter.

He served as a sergeant 1st class in Korea from 1950 to 1953, commanding an international company seconded to the Eighth United States Army as part of the UN intervention force. He was involved in some of the heaviest fighting, but was only injured once when a phosphorus grenade exploded in front of him and left him with a gruesome scar on his right shin. He lived through some terrible battles, but lost many of his men; he remembered each and every one of them and lived with survivor guilt for the rest of his life.

It wasn't until late in life that my father started to relate some of his experiences to me. I'm sad to say that I wasn't always receptive to his stories; Dad would tell of truly terrible things, of killing people and mutilating Chinese corpses, of streams of refugees and women and children begging for food and shelter, of visits to brothels when on leave...things no daughter needs to imagine her father being involved in. He would eulogise the war and would claim with tears in his eyes that his time in Korea was without a doubt the very best time in his entire life, he had never felt so alive...At the time, it struck me as strange that he would say that, but now I understand that he must have felt more alive because he lived in constant danger.

Dad was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, one of only a handful of non-US military personnel to be honoured in this way during this conflict. He was immensely proud of it; none of his other medals meant as much to him, and yet he didn't think he'd done anything especially heroic to deserve it (he'd gone back into a minefield while under heavy enemy fire to help a wounded comrade out, and then as soon as he'd got him to safety, had gone back in again to get the man's blown-off foot - new boots were scarce commodities, it would seem, and at the time it must have seemed to make sense to him and his commanding officer who recommended him for his actions to risk his life for a boot).



( 6 Speak Like A Child — Shout To The Top )
Nov. 12th, 2010 12:51 am (UTC)
Those would be terribly hard things to hear. Your dad really was a handsome man.
Nov. 12th, 2010 08:17 am (UTC)
Dad's short-term memory was badly affected by the two strokes he suffered in the 90s; after which the past became almost his sole topic of conversation - not an uncommon occurence among old people, I know, strokes or no.

Unfortunately, Dad and I held a fundamental difference of opinion: he believed his tim ein Korea and the army to have constituted his finest hour, and I believe the war in Korea, following so shortly on the war in Europe, had traumatised him and ruined his life, and subsequently, ruined a large part of mine and my mother and sister's lives as well. It wasn't easy living with a Korean War vet around Christmas time, I can tell you.

Your dad really was a handsome man.

He was. Charming, too. As a little girl, I saw the effect he had on people, and used to be so proud of him, I really loved to show him off. Mum did well to snag him for our family ;-).
Nov. 12th, 2010 03:46 pm (UTC)
Am I allowed to say he's a cutie?
Nov. 12th, 2010 04:23 pm (UTC)
Of course you are! Because he was, and in more ways than one :D
Nov. 18th, 2010 10:51 pm (UTC)
I think not talking about things seen and done in war is more common than finding someone who does talk about them.

Your father looks like an actor from the old Hollywood. :)
Nov. 19th, 2010 10:27 am (UTC)
I am thankful that in the last 10, 15 years of his life Dad did open up to me about his wartime experiences, and not just those of his time in Korea but also those he had as a young boy under German occupation; even if sometimes the things he told me were hard to hear or imagine him having had to go through, because ultimately it did give me a much better and rounded picture of the man who was my father. It did give me a better understanding of where he came from and allowed me to forgive him for certain unfortunate and traumatic events that happened in my childhood and teenage years.

Your father looks like an actor from the old Hollywood. :)

From my earliest years, I can remember my father turning heads wherever he went. He was tall (6'4"), goodlooking, and had an easy manner that made people take to him instantly - and esp. as a little girl, I was very proud to belong to him.

The handlebar mustache had gone by the time I was born. I remember him clean-shaven mostly, although for a time in the 60s and again in the 80s, he sported a full beard, that looked good on him too.
( 6 Speak Like A Child — Shout To The Top )


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