My father: The Veteran

The current crisis in North Korea has brought up memories of my late father.

My late father was a Veteran of both the Korean & Vietnam Wars, serving in the former when he was a teenager.

He was never that terribly forthcoming with details about his military life, but through references and from what my mother shared, I knew that he was a POW for a significant amount of time in Vietnam (long enough to be presumed dead) and that the very second anything on television referred to Vietnam he–in a very quiet voice–would politely ask my mother to change the channel.

With the Korean War, I know nothing except that he lied about his age in order to sign up and my memories of him talking about it are basically him saying that he served in it and that was that.

In 2003, one year after he passed, I wrote a play called Airport Lounges wherein a major scene involved the lead character imagining what the Korean War was like. (No spoilers)

Although my mother & I flew to Korea while he was alive, we literally were changing planes. For me at least, I couldn’t bring myself to ask for a proper trip to the country, because I would view it through the eyes of a scared teenager serving in the US Army.

Whilst my father lived to see the US formalise relations with Vietnam, he never expressed any desire to visit.

North Korea never featured much in US news in the 1980s & 1990s as much as Vietnam did, but I do hope that I live to see peace on the Korean peninsula, and that I am able to visit a place whose conflict has had such a profound effect on me decades before I was born.


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