Korea -- Two generations in country

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Korea -- Two generations in country

by: Major Van Harl | .
USAF Ret | .
published: April 02, 2013

I did my time in Korea, in 1983.
It wasn't really a hardship; I had my wife Dawn with me.
We were both in the Air Force doing a one-year remote on the ROK.
You spend a lot of time checking the calendar and watching the clock.

"I want to go state-side"; I just want to go home.
But it wasn't really so bad and if we were lonely, we got on the phone.
We could call the family in the "states" any time day or night.
The mail came twice every day, and you could always write.

We got there in January and could not believe it was so cold.
Come summer it was so hot, the weather was very hard on the sick and old.
But there was no war and no one was getting shot in the middle of the night.
Now what about my father-in-law in 1952 and his combat plight.

John Rausch was an Infantry soldier positioned on what became the DMZ.
There, with his recoilless rifle, watching the north, what would he see?
The enemy trying to kill him, coming south every night,
Serve his country, stay alive and get home, this was his personal fight.

John was unhappy when my wife told him we were headed to Osan Air Base.
He could only remember the cold and the fighting, what a miserable place.
Friends he had shipped over to Korea with were never to come back.
Now his daughter was going to Korea, all he could remember was that bloody nightly attack.

Our tour in Korea involved a lot of training exercises and shopping down in the vil.
John's tour was living in a sandbag bunker, on a treeless windswept hill.
We ate our meals in the Officer's club almost every night.
He ate his combat rations, in the cold rain, under a poncho by a single candlelight.

We drove my pick-up truck on a four-lane highway called a Military Supply Route.
John walked on muddy or frozen trails, everyday until he was finally shipped out.
We came home to an airport full of excited family, waiting with bated breath.
John came home to the knowledge, of his sister's recent illness and death.

We would drive up to Seoul, to the Embassy Club for a dinner of steak.
He would fight the elements of the night, to stay alive; he had to stay awake.
We had a house girl to look after us and clean up our mess.
John had a Korean soldier assigned to him, who suffered like the rest.

Our war was the Gulf War, fought on TV every night.
John's war, Korea, was fought away from the public's sight.
America thought we were wonderful freeing those poor people in the sand.
John got home in the middle of the night, minus the Army Brass Band.

As a nation, we just wanted to forget about Korea, that "Crazy Asian War."
We just wanted to get on with the good life, sugar and gas rationing--no more.
This nation had already done its best in World War II.
Now they were fighting in a forsaken country, out of sight, out of view.

John hardly had any contact with his family while engaged in those cold & bloody fights.
We on the other hand, brought over a large part of our family to Korea, to shop and see the sights.
They road the luxury trains of Korea from Seoul in the north to Pusan in the south.
John was in his sandbag bunker, living hand to mouth.

For my wife and I, our time in Korea was not unpleasant to say the least.
We worked hard, ate & slept well and went head to head with that "shopping Beast."
John earned a Combat Infantry Badge and got out of Korea with his life.
He got back home to Minnesota and married his future wife.

For, two family generations in the military, Korea means different things.
One, it means fighting for your country and the horrors that war brings.
For the other and her husband is was a short stop in a promising military career.
But for both, the thoughts, good and bad of Korea were always near.

Korea has had a major impact on our family's life.
But I am glad I did my time there, in relative peace with my military wife.
Our daughter is young and I don't like what I see happening on that Asian shore.
She wants to join the Air Force, but I would like to see her generation stay out of another Korean War.
 

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