Remembering

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My dad in Germany during the Korean War.

“I raised my hand because they asked who could type,” he said. “I could type.” If my father’s story of his service in the Korean War began with his administration skills, it always ended with the admonishment: “never volunteer for anything.” He never saw combat since he was stationed in Europe to take care of personnel files. He seemed to have a good time so it didn’t make sense that volunteerism was a bad idea. But after 9/11 he told me a different story, one that suggested a larger truth. He told me of the men in his battalion, their names long forgotten, but not their service. According to my dad, two-thirds lost their lives in Korea. The jumpers, he told me, all died. He wound up in Germany taking care of personnel paperwork only because a guy two in front of him in the line died in a jump. “The next guy went to jumper school and I wound up in Germany,” he said. “That’s how they did it. One went to Germany, one went to Korea, and one went to jumper school. I would have been in Korea otherwise. I owe my life to that guy. The guy in front of me died too. Almost all of my battalion died.” While his battalion was fighting in Korea, my father was taking care of their personnel files, including their benefits and letters home to their families when the servicemen were killed. I’m only alive due to the death of a serviceman that sent my dad to Germany instead of the front lines. He didn’t volunteer for anything; he shaped the story of his service in that way to make the story more palatable when his kids were younger. Maybe he was old enough not to care or he thought, after 9/11, I was old enough not to be shielded any longer. Or maybe he knew that his daughter with the “motormouth” would be the one to tell the story of his service and the losses his battalion suffered–a loss, I sense, he still feels today.

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