Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Korean War

Growing up in a, no, scratch that, THE most military-oriented location on the planet Earth, period, I have come to know people from every branch of the armed forces, Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy, the Coast Guard, the CIA and NSA and so on.  I won't go into how much I appreciate and respect them and their diligence, as well the sacrifices their families endure, but with all the focus on remembering the Korean War (re: Korean "Conflict"), it made me stop and think back a bit.  This came into greater focus as I drove past the V.A. hospital where my father worked for 33 years and where I spent a LOT of my childhood.  I met more of his patients than I can ever count.  Amazing people.  It had a profound impact on me growing up.

A lot of my friends in Jr. High and High School had parents who were combat veterans of the Korean War, and the Vietnam Conflict.  I emphasize "combat" because there's a huge difference between being a veteran and being a combat veteran.  Some of them had a father imprisoned in Hanoi and I was at one of their homes when they got the phone call that daddy was on a flight heading home.  Talk about being ecstatic.  It was incredible.  I've also been at a home when they got the bad phone call.  I've known people who lost family members, friends, relatives, school mates, etc. in both wars.  I've sat at kitchen tables and listened to some of the dads recount stories also; usually sanitized for my young ears to grasp without freaking out and jumping from a bridge in panic.

But sometimes they would drink just enough to forego the sanitization and just spill their guts.  Sometimes it was general stuff.  Sometimes it was specific, often graphic. Rarely were they funny or light-hearted (there were a few).  But thinking back over the stories I was privy to, none were as bleak, drab, depressing and horrific as the Korean War stories.  I'm not trying to compare or rate them in any way, and I'm obviously only capable of commenting on a small segment of people, but whatever.  I don't claim to be an expert either.  I'm just recalling what I heard and for whatever reason I felt like posting it.

They call it "the Forgotten War" and it should be obvious why.  You rarely hear of it except when there's an anniversary or when a recent event occurs between the North and South.  As much as we've seen effort put into opening up the discussion on post-Vietnam trauma, and post-Gulf War trauma, nothing like that was ever put forth for those that came home from Korea.  They came home to silence.  No protests, no parades.  Nothing.  And those people have quietly tried to deal with that ever since.  I can't imagine the stress they've bottled up.  If you know someone that fought in that conflict, talk to them.

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