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“Chosin”… Should be required viewing for every American

on 24 January, 2013

Several years before my Dad died, I was visiting him at his home in Sioux City. For those who don’t know, my Dad died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. Toward the end of his life, I think he spent a lot of time in his past.

My Dad had been a Navy corpsman at the end of World War II and I believe, was aboard the carrier U.S.S. Enterprise. And that is about the extent of what I know about his years of service. It was something that Dad just never talked about.

So on this particular visit, I was able to spend some time alone with my Dad. I probably have to preface this story with the fact that I am (actually ‘was’) my father’s favorite child and he made no bones about it. There is a funny little story about why – and interestingly enough has to do with the fact that he was a Navy corpsman – but I’ll save it for another time.

We spend some time sorting and organizing things in his spare bedroom, this was the room he used to store his clothes and to get dressed, as he was an early riser and tended to wake up Mom before she really wanted to be up. So, the dresser and closet were filled with his clothes and necessities. And the room reflected the treasures and valuables that he had collected through his life.

Yes, my Dad was an avid collector – it is where I get it from, I am sure. He also was a child of the depression and have heard him say more than once that he learned that you never throw anything away that *might* be valuable later. It proved to be quite favorable with regards to newspaper clippings that I found filling – overflowing – the top two drawers of the china cabinet in the dining room. Clippings that included birth and death announcements, wedding notices, interesting articles about family members, etc. I even found one of a story that the local newspaper had published a letter that I had written to Santa Claus when I was six or so!

But I am getting off track. Dad enlisted in the Navy when he was seventeen with his parents’ permission. Like I said he turned seventeen in 1944, towards the end of World War II and I am sure, like most boys of the time, didn’t want to miss out. He was my grandparents’ tenth and last child, with a considerable span between the ninth and tenth, and I am sure that they were not happy to see him go.

Like I said, Dad never talked much about his time in the service.I do know that he was stationed, for a while, in Oakland. He did talk about that a little, when he and Mom came to California to visit me and we took them to San Francisco. I now wished that I had gone to Oakland to visit the hospital with him. Maybe he would have talked about his experiences more.

As a corpsman, I am sure that he saw some horrific things. For those unaware, a corpsman was much like an army medic, first line medical attention. I don’t believe that he ever was in actual combat, I think he was stationed on the ship in the harbor near Japan. But to see the wounds and pain and suffering of the young men as they were transported back to the ship must have been overwhelming. I can only imagine.

So on this particular day, I don’t even recall the specifics of our conversation, just idle chit chat as we sorted through things, he had mentioned that on one of the trips he and Mom had taken with the Shriners, he had met a man who had been in that part of the world about the same time as he. I don’t think I understood it then, but he connected with this man and they spent many hours talking about their experiences. While he was telling me, he grew quiet and I looked up at him to see him overcome with emotion and choking back tears. This was not a normal thing for my Dad to do. I was alarmed and worried that he was in pain or experiencing something physical like a heart attack or something, but I quickly realized that he was thinking about something that occurred during his service days.

He left the room without explanation. My Dad was a proud man, tough although not a big guy, he was a force to be reckoned with. There weren’t many times that I saw my Dad cry – I wouldn’t need more than one hand to count them, but this was significant. I wished I had gotten him to talk about it, but I just let it drop. I didn’t want to embarrass him or make him feel uncomfortable… I just let it go.

Today, I watched a movie called “Chosin”. It was about one of the most fierce two week battles in the Korean war in 1950. It wasn’t a place that my Dad had been, but when you see solid, tough Marines reduced to tears, you know that this impacted a lot of men. I think everyone should have to watch this movie to understand what war does to a man. And how PTSD affects a man’s entire life. You cannot see some of the things described in this movie as a 17 or 18 or 19 year old man and not have it affect the remainder of your life.

As I watched, I kept being reminded of my Dad and that day. I am sure after all those years, the things he saw, the men who died and the service he performed stayed present in his mind every single day for the rest of his life. I wept for those men and the men that died there and how the Korean people have kept important the thing that these men fought and died for them, for their freedoms and to be able to escape communism (and the fate of what is happening in North Korea).

I cannot even begin to broach the importance and significance that this movie makes. You just need to watch it yourself. It will move you. I promise.

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