Memorial Day

By circumstances of history and geography, nobody in my family served in the US military.  My oldest brother, born in 1953, was eligible during the waning years of the Vietnam War but was never called.  I remember my parents figuratively wringing their hands wondering if he'd be drafted into the obligatory service of the Korean Army.  We weren't citizens yet and if he were called, we wouldn't have had any protection from the US government.  [Yes, they'd draft you but not protect you.]

I just went to my 30th college reunion.  Memorial Day weekend came and went.  My husband recently lost 2 uncles.  His mother has crossed over from the peaceful days of retirement into the waning, translucent days of memory loss, loneliness and depression.

It's no surprise then, that I have been thinking about the passing of days. As it was Memorial Day, I looked for these pictures of my dad and his one older brother, who served in the Korean Army and Air Force, respectively:

I think this was around 1950.  There were 4 boys in that family; one went to be with the North Koreans.   The other, a geeky, brainy young man, was captured by the North Koreans, for their "brain trust," no doubt.  These 2 brothers were able to escape the Communists coming from the north and served in the South Korean military.

Ten years later, my dad was at Kimpo Airport in Seoul, heading to Brandeis University for a PhD in Mathematics.  My uncle rose in the ranks of the Air Force.

Back then, Korea was still reeling from the Japanese Forced Occupation, WW2 and the Korean War.  Unlike the bustling industrialized powerhouse it is today, it was a poverty-stricken, physically destroyed Third World country.  Only the biggest roads were paved; children played in the dirt in rags.  The people were small mostly because of the lack of good nutrition.  My dad and uncle would have been quite a vision at 5'-9" and sturdy of build.  It was said that people in the streets would stop and stare at my handsome uncle, wondering if he were an American movie star

My grandparents left their home in Haeju, now in North Korea,  lost a father to Japanese torture and imprisonment, and lost 2 sons.  Now a 3rd son was headed to the other side of the world.  No jet planes direct from Seoul to NYC, but instead, a prop plane that hopscotched from Seoul to Tokyo to Hawaii to Chicago before landing at Kennedy. Never mind cell phones, there was barely such a thing as overseas calls of any kind.  Remember, these were the days of black & white TVs and 3, maybe 4 channels!

Maybe they were so used to losses that this kind of joy and opportunity overrode any sadness they were sure to have.  Maybe their deep and abiding faith in God helped them through.  There's no "maybe" for me.  I'm sure as I can be of anything, that their God, was their source of strength and confidence.

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