The cool Texas air courses through my veins as I walk out of the old classroom door of Cowtown Comunity College for the last time. Today was the start of the summer that changed my life.
I walk into the living room of my house to find my sixty-one year old Grandpa Alfred sitting in his favorite recliner staring profusely at the premier of “The Today Show” with tears flooding down his wrinkly face.
“Grandpa, Grandpa. Are you okay?”
“Those white hills, that blue, blue sea,” he says. “I lay awake at night, reliving the war.”
I stood there is pure shock with my mouth wide open.
“Oh, hey there Wayne,” he said wiping the tears from his tear-stained face.
“What happened? Is everything alright?”
Grandpa stands himself up and waddles over to the couch, grunting with every step. I follow because of curiosity alone.
“Boy,” he muttered, “War is no joke; it will eat you alive from the inside out and that’s the truth. Now if you boys don’t mind, I am going to go make myself some tea.”
I contemplated the idea of war everyday after hearing that.
“How bad can it actually be?” I muttered sarcastically.
“Yea, it cannot be half as bad as what your old man said,” Oakley exclaimed.
Oakley is a special kid, he goes by Oaks. He is my best friend and we grew up together on the same street in a small town called Cowtown, Texas, with around four-hundred citizens. I think he is an immigrant from Norway or some country over there, but both his parents died because of a car accident, so he stays with his “bestemor” or Norwegian Grandmother. As the years progressed, our bond grew closer and closer. Of course we fought, but that is what brought us closer in the long haul.
I was raised in a win-win household, where everyone won in the end and everyone was happy. Up until this point, my idea of war had always been resembling a wrestling match, one winner, one loser, and everyone lives. But boy was I wrong.
One lightly-winded summer afternoon, we were walking through the town, checking out the ladies, when Oaks spotted a new poster stapled onto the stout maple door of the city hall building.
“Well I’ll be darn darned.” marveled Oaks.
The sign read, “I want you for the U.S. Army” with a picture of Uncle Sam pointing at me.
The first image that appeared quite vivid in my young mind was a one of Grandpa in place of Uncle Sam. The idea of joining the war has been drifting in our minds all summer.
“This is our chance to make a difference, Oaks.”
“What? Are you out of your mind, Wayne? I ain’t gonna go join a war to fight for a country that is already mine.”
“You don’t understand. This is a chance for us to show Grandpappy Alfred that War is not as bad as he remembers it.”
Oaks stood there deep in thought with his eyes as wide as the Mississippi River. After a brief period of time, a cute girl drew his eye away from the poster. If it wasn’t for that girl, I do believe that he would have became a statue right where he stood.
“F-f-fine. I guess I will go with you.”
I was so exited at that moment that I could have ran to the battlefield. Eventually, we found out that the war we would be engaging in, would be the Korean War, an ongoing war that has been in combat since June 25, 1950.
July 26, 1952, Oaks and I both enlisted to serve for the U.S. Army.
The trip was a dreary one. A multitude of busses were used as transportation until we arrived on the coast of Florida. There we climbed aboard a naval ship and headed to the front lines.
Now I was a buff kid since I was a little boy, but Oaks was as skinny as a bean pole. On the ship, there was nothing to do except talk and workout. I was an instant hit with the rest of the young men on board, but my friend Oaks, was struggling to fit in because his body build was on the skinny side. What he lacked in muscles, he made up in brains.
The days felt like weeks, as the continuous rocking of the ship became a feeling that would never leave me.
“Land ahoy,” shouts one of the officers.
Everyone scrambles as fast as they could to the deck to visualize their first sight of Korea. From what I saw, Korea seemed like a peaceful land where the trees and ocean are abundant. But little did we know, that there was something, or might I say someone, lurking in the forest.
During the weeks onboard the ship, we were taught how to shoot and clean our standard issue M1 Carbine, and also how to put on and shine our boots. War will be a breeze, there is nothing I could possible have to fear.
“Men!” Captain Rodgers screamed, “You are about to embark on the most physically and mentally demanding event in your life. There will be blood, and there will be death. But all of you need to know that you are fighting for the U.S., the grandest country in existence. Be brave and be strong.”
“Wow Oaks, this is the real deal!”
“I know man, I know!”
With the waves growing stronger, ocean water would splash over the front of the boat and mist the group of adrenaline-filled teenagers. A sudden jolt of the boat scraping the beach, knocked me off my feet and onto my hands and knees. The gates flew open as the Captain yelled, “Go, go, go, go, go!”
As I jumped down onto the beach, my new army issue shoes sunk deep into the wet sand and made me trip once again. But I pressed on and started to run as fast as my legs could take me towards the jungle.
Just then, a bright light appeared ahead and some of the men around me started to fall. Due to the adrenaline in my system, I was not aware of the Korean soldier with a machine gun massacring all my friends. In the panic of the moment, I forgot I had a gun. But when it came to mind, I slung it out from my back and gripped the smooth deep mahogany wood stock, and with my right hand, I cocked the gun, aimed at the light of the machine gun, and pulled the trigger. Bang went the gun as I was knocked over by the kick-back of the M1. I was pulled up by a familiar face.
“Oaks,” I shouted in pure disbelief. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
“You are alive!”
“Um, of course I am, I followed you all the way here.”
I was so caught up in the whole part of not dying, that I forgot all about my best buddy, Oaks. The barrage subsided, but that’s only ‘cause night was upon us. I jumped in an artillery blast hole and got ready for the night.
We both stayed in that artillery hole for the remainder of the day. But when night came, Oaks went from confident soldier to insecure boy.
“Wayne, all this war stuff is making me question my religion. I don’t wanna die, but if i do, I wanna be saved. Can you help me?”
“Oaks,” I whispered. “You are not alone. I have a feeling like there is a God that watches over us, but I am not sure if He is here, in Korea.”
“When I was a little child, back in Norway, my parents would always pray and ask for protection from anyone who tried to hurt us. And I felt good after they finished praying. Do you think we can pray?”
“Of course we can. Dear God, if you are truly there, please protect us from the evil forces around us, and please give us the strength to carry on. This war is a strenuous time and it is a little more difficult that I would thought. Lord, we come to you now asking that we both could be saved if we die. We surrender our lives to you Lord. Amen”
“Amen,” chimed Oaks.
We both prayed there for about an hour and felt the Holy Spirit full our bodies. The next morning, I was awoken by the sound of bullets just above our heads.
“Oaks,” I whispered, violently shaking him from his sleep, “Oaks, wake up.”
It was evident that the amount of sleep he had gotten the night before was just enough for half of his brain to function.
“Let’s push on in front of the group and clear the way for the others.”
“I don’t know about this, man. Our orders were to get to this position and hold it while we wait for reinforcements. I think reinforcements should be here any minute now and I feel that we should wait for them.”
“C’mon man, we will be heroes if we push on!”
The little amount of sleep he had gotten the night before was definitely not helping the decision making process.
“Well. . . Okay. . . I guess I will follow your lead. You have never steered me wrong.”
At the exact moment when Oaks and I cleared the hole, a bombardment of bullets from machine guns came out of nowhere and everywhere. As I watched the bullets tear the flesh from his body, I realized what War was. Oaks fell to the ground with blood gushing from his torso.
The pain from the bullets cutting into my thigh was no where the amount of pain I had from seeing Oaks, lying there, with parts of his abdomen lying all around his body. That was the last thing I saw before I blacked out.
“Wayne, Wayne, can you hear me?” a familiar voice sounded.
“Hello, hello, is anyone there? Where am I? What happened?”
“Wayne, relax. It’s me.”
My eyes struggled to open, but the familiar voice and the wrinkly face of my grandpappy Alfred made me cry with tears of joy. As I lay wrapped in bandages in the Cowtown hospital, he wrapped me in his arms and said, “Welcome home.”
Cumings, Bruce. The Korean War: A History. Modern Library, 2011. Print.
The History Guy. “The Korean War Timeline: 1950-1953.” N.D. January 11, 2018.
Graham, James. “Historical Events in 1952.” On This Day. N.D. January 11, 2018.
Tucker, Abigail. “One Man’s Korean War.” Smithsonian Magazine. November 2008. History Online. N.D. 29 January. 2018.
“What Happened in 1952 Important News and Events, Key Technology and Popular Culture.” The People History. History Online. N.D. 29 January, 2018.