Friday, November 8, 2013

The Book of Me, Part 11: Military Ties

This is my entry prompted by The Book of Me, Written By You project created by Julie Goucher of the Anglers Rest blog. The concept: a series of blogging and writing prompts that help family historians capture their own memories and write about themselvesGo to for more information.

This week's assignment:

The continuation of the 15 month, weekly writing project about my life and memories, created by Julie Goucher.
This week’s prompt (week 11) is Military

• Did you join the military?
Were you encouraged or discouraged?

• Did a family member?
• o Regular or for a particular incident

• Did you or your family serve overseas in the line of Service either during a war or a posting

• Any thoughts, photographs, memories relevant

My father was drafted and served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War.  He was only 19, leaving behind his sweetheart (my mother) and his parents.  He did not speak much of his experiences, and it took me some time after his death to realize that it must have been traumatic for him.

Dad in his high school ROTC uniform, cir. 1946-47
Copyright © 2013 Linda O'Donnell All Rights Reserved

Dad spoke of the intense loneliness when first leaving home, sleeping on a bunk in a room with a bunch of strangers, longing for the comfort and familiarity of home.  He said there were a few guys crying softly that first night, overcome with not only being away from home, but the enormity of the task ahead.  The only other incidents that Dad spoke of were ones that undoubtedly left him changed.  The first was seeing a buddy get shot and killed, right next to him.  I cannot even begin to imagine the emotional trauma it must have caused.

The other incident occurred when my dad was told to take a Jeep and go on patrol.  I don't know the details of where he was going or the ultimate goal of the patrol, but somewhere along the way, the Jeep got stuck in the mud.  Dad was going nowhere.  He was alone, in a hostile country, and had no way to get himself unstuck.  That is, until the snipers started shooting at him.  The fear caused his adrenaline to kick into high gear, and he would tell often tell us how surprised he was that he was able to single-handedly lift the back end of the Jeep out of the mud, and high-tail it out of there.  He always said that an angel helped him out, and I would have to agree.  Dad did suffer from back problems for the rest of his life, though, I often wondered if lifting a Jeep could have done some damage.
Dad, in Korea, cir. 1951
Copyright © 2013 Linda O'Donnell All Rights Reserved

Dad had the added emotional trauma of having to interrupt his service in Korea to return home, because his mother was dying of cancer.  He did arrive in time to see her before she passed, and was able to attend her funeral.  Then, back to Korea, active combat, and suppressing those emotions of loss.  How awful that must have been for him.

Dad on bereavement leave, 1953
Copyright © 2013 Linda O'Donnell All Rights Reserved
My mother, a high school student at the time of my dad's deployment, wrote to him every day, and he wrote back.  I can remember seeing a stack of letters he'd written to her that she'd saved, wrapped in ribbon, with his familiar block printing.  I was embarrassed at the "SWAK" (Sealed With A Kiss)  notation he had on the back of every envelope, and his "Hubba-Hubba" on the front was intended to compel the Post Office to deliver it quickly.  How much they must have missed each other!

I am fortunate in that I've never had to serve.  The Vietnam War ended while I was in high school, so none of my contemporaries were drafted.  My husband, who is nearly 10 years older than me, did serve during the Vietnam era, but was fortunate enough to be stationed in Korea and therefore missed most of the dangerous stuff.  While my father may have had many flaws, I am proud of his service to our country, his lifelong patriotism, and his courage.  I have a deep respect, admiration and gratitude for all of the men and women who serve in our military.  They make great sacrifices, not only by being in danger, but also by being away from their families and loved ones.  It's no cake walk, and I feel a strong sense of indebtedness to our heroes who help keep us safe.

Happy Veteran's Day, and may God bless all military personnel and their families.  And to my dad, who is with the angels now, I'd just like to say, thanks for your service and sacrifice.  

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