Daddy graduated was in the physical therapy program at Duke University when the Korean War was well under way. He was months from graduation when the U.S. government under Harry Truman began the draft of young men to go be fodder in a war that was not a war, but was instead a continuation of the U.S. commitment to stop the spread of Communism.
Daddy didn’t have a malicious bone in his body. He didn’t want to fight.
He loved his country (too much, at times, I believed as I was growing up and saw the corruption everywhere in the U.S. and its citizens, but he and I often had issues reconciling our views about where we had been and where we were – I suspect now Daddy and I would be on the same page, but I am also thankful he’s not here to see the present), but Daddy was a peacemaker, not a fighter.
Daddy knew the Korean war would take him if he didn’t take it first.
When Daddy enlisted in the U.S. Army, he was sent to Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Somewhere in that training of boot camp, which Daddy remembered as cold and wet, Daddy developed rheumatic fever.
Although it would be 10 years later before Daddy’s rheumatic fever would be diagnosed (along with the cardiac damage that would follow him the rest of his life and eventually lead to the congestive heart failure that took his life on October 15, 1998), the seeds of that illness took root in Daddy’s life near Columbia, South Carolina in late 1951.
Knowing my daddy, he never complained. No matter how he would have felt, he would just keep on doing what he needed to do.
After boot camp, Daddy was stationed stateside in Fort Leavenworth, KS as a physical therapist.
I have no idea what Daddy saw there as he treated and helped the soldiers from the Korean War. He never talked about it. Ever.
But the more I’ve studied the Korean War, the more horrendous I’ve realized it was for Americans. What my daddy saw of that aftermath, I can only imagine. But I know it must have changed him – for the good, I believe, because my daddy was one of the kindest, most empathetic, and most empathetic men I’ve ever known.
The lesson I learned from Daddy is that even the most horrendous things we experience in life can be a lesson to change us into something different, good, kind, loving, and caring.
Thanks, as always, Daddy, for your example of what the right thing to do is. I too often fall short, but with God’s help, I get back up and try again.
I love you, Daddy. Oh, how I miss you! Can’t wait to see you and hug you again soon!