Organized by the National Park Service, students of Tuscarora High School in Frederick County Maryland and students of CheongShim International Academy in the Republic of Korea interviewed Korean War veterans in their respective countries. The students shared these interviews with each other through the internet. Based on a more informed and personal understanding, the students wrote thank-you letters to the veterans of the Korean War. Although these are offered to the veterans, we think they will forgive the rest of us, who share these feelings of gratitude, if we read their mail.
Dear Korean War Veterans,
Several years ago, at my grandmother's funeral, my oldest aunt opened her mouth with tears dropping from her eyes.
"I hated my mother for so long," she said. "I hated her so much for what she had did…" Everyone looked at her. She was the oldest daughter who received the most love from grandmother.
"Mother was twenty one when the Korean War broke out. I was three and my younger sister was one. She lived with her husband's parents, and when she heard that the North Koreans and Chinese soldiers were heading for the city, she had to flee to a relative's house," my aunt's story went on. "But the problem was that she had so many people and things to take with her. She had to take care of the elders as well as her children. One has to be sacrificed. She…she thought that because she was young she could again have another baby, she decided to leave her second daughter behind. So she put some food and her baby daughter in a small room. She locked the door… Inside, her baby will starve to death slowly." No one spoke.
"But the war was over after a week. It wasn't the total end, but the North Koreans and Chinese went back to their country," oldest aunt further went on, and her eyes were blood-shot. "When the war ended she walked about 200 km without rest. She thought that she killed her daughter with her own hands. The most rational creature on Earth has turned into a beast; this was war. She came back to Daejeon. She went into the room. Hot air passed her face with a smell of a fermented human waste. The baby wasn't dead!"
This is a story of an old women and the war. The soldiers who came from far away to help South Korea saved our family and saved my life. All the happiness and love I now enjoy came from the blood of the sacrificed and the tears of the terrified.
Thank you. My life was dependent on you. Your bravery, your courage should never be forgotten. Yes, it is true that people dub the Korean War as the "Forgotten War". It is, however, not forgotten. It is just hidden deep inside our lives that we could not reach it. Just a little realization will be enough to bring out the hidden Korean War and the sacrifices of so many people.
You are not forgotten. You are not in solitude. I am here to thank you. You live inside me and my family. You do not deserve misery and loneliness when others who owe to you live in comfort and happiness. You deserve to greatest honor and gratitude.
A Thank You Letter From Korea
The blizzard found me stunned. Raindrops changed from spring drizzle to downpours of rainy spell and is preparing to turn into snow; but until now, I cannot pull the shard of memory out of my heart. Whenever I recall that one hour of my life, I find myself drifting inside a pile of entangled emotion.
It was March of 2012. Listening to the stories of poverty and cruelty the veterans suffered made my heart ache. But before ruminating over again the piece of history they shared with me, I was no more than stunned. Just stunned. They told me that they wished to have been younger so they could shoot down pro-North's including Daejung Kim, the last president of Korea. They told me that South Korea should strengthen national wealth to completely eradicate the socialist government of North.
I respect the hardships they've gone through in the 1950s. I thank them for devoting their golden ages, and preventing farther destruction. However, I cannot agree with them. I was, in fact, even better assured by their words: War destroys everything. That's the everlasting, unconditional truth. I now know that their scar was too deep to see through the truth. What I really hope now is to amend their hearts. So they can overcome their distorted hatred. I hope yours is too, prepared to pump again blood to every aortas and arteries of the world. Bringing it warmth and life.
Thank you. Thank you for have lessened heavy burdens for us. And thank you, for sharing your PEACE.
Dear veteran soldiers who participated in the Korean War
My grandmother still fears the cracks of thunder or raging sounds of airplanes passing by. Although she did not participate in the war, she could clearly hear bombs exploding everywhere and distorted corpse lying around the streets. She was soon traumatized by the shells. It was a difficult -no, it was more than difficult- a horrible time.
Nevertheless, she survived. And we all know how many soldiers had to sacrifice themselves in order to save the lives of innocent citizens like my grandmother. I am writing this letter to inform you that as a member of Korean citizen, a lot of students in our school are actually commemorating the Korean War, and are trying our best to make the public acknowledge this forgotten war. Also, I would like to express how thankful we are about your courage to endure all the painful moments to defend this country from destruction.
After finishing the interview with the veteran soldiers, I could not help myself from drawing the picture of the war, all the unreasonable behaviors turning into a norm. You told me that when you hesitate to shoot a person in the war, then your life is at risk, so there is no time to feel guilty about the dead. I was first shocked to hear that, but after undergoing deep contemplation, I could understand the situation that forced you to make such miserable decision. Then I felt compassion, as well as unlimited gratitude for your endeavor to safe the country.
Especially, I was shocked to hear about the lives of the soldiers during the wartime. You have told me that since there was no proper food to eat, the soldiers had to sustain their lives with 3 lumps of rice and salt every day. Worse, the "special" meal for women and children was the soup made from half-spoiled ham and canned beans thrown away by American soldiers. In other words, what was garbage to US soldiers was gracious food to Korean civilians suffering from hunger. But they were all thankful that there was still some food to keep them from starvation.
People are slowly forgetting about the war, because though youths today do learn about it, but only by textbook and not by heart. The relationship with North Korea is still in question. Nevertheless, your sacrifice would never be forgotten no matter what. We are so proud to hear that although everybody wanted to surrender and terminate the moments of torture, they could not because they had something more valuable to save, such as their family, nation, or faith. The miracle we see today is all yours.
Thank you for all the soldiers, including the Americans, who sacrificed themselves in the war.
To read more thank-you letters go to: https://www.nps.gov/kowa/learn/historyculture/index.htm
Photos courtesy of Rare Historical Photos. https://rarehistoricalphotos.com/korean-war-rare-pictures-1951-1953/
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