Even non-coffee drinkers will admit to enjoying the first smell of coffee as it wafts its way to wherever they happen to be. Think about it, when have you ever heard someone complain about the awful aroma of that stinking dark black stuff?
Walk into any recording studio early in the morning and the usual first sensory stimulation will be that of aged dust. It can’t be avoided; all those damn ugly wires that have purposely been hidden in walls, behinds books, in cabinets, under rugs, and anywhere possible to keep them out of sight – in order to beautify an otherwise mildly pleasant ambiance. But, then the same force that allows for the dusty odor now offers a familiar pleasure; comes now the joyful delight of everything good. You can’t help yourself. Reflection takes you by storm.
Is there anything you may think of that brings with it a more pleasant retrospect than personal reflection?
Our squad had been out all night in a moist and dank, subterfuge of a farm, known as a rice paddy. For those of you unfamiliar with the makeup of a rice paddy, simply stated, the rice is planted under water or on ground soon to be flooded. In most of the Far East, human wastes are used as fertilizer. The stench is overpowering. I don’t care who you are – walking around in it is not a fun-filled event. Getting tired? Forget about it, which of you would possibly choose to sit down and rest in a field concocted with human waste? A generally morose attitude takes over; don’t you think?
But then, an automatic amongst young American soldiers kicks in. From the seemingly depths of discomfort, the joking begins. What takes over is similar to the effect of not being able to stop hiccuping in a nervous system where a human being senses that they are no longer in control.
North Korea – it would be like going on vacation to a place that wasn’t even first, second, or third on your list of places to go. The fact is, it wasn’t even one of my considerations. I was a member of the United States Army at the time – it was their consideration.
No sweet smells of coffee to greet me this particular morning. The aroma of a freshly cultivated rice paddy, especially on the nostrils of a 19 year-old soldier attempting to fight off the despair of exhaustion and hunger at the same instant, is not a joking matter. To add insult to injury, I was all of 155 pounds at the time. The mine disposal equipment would have easily been a tolerable weight for a strong young man to handle, if it weren’t for the fact that I was weighed down by the additional cargo of normal clothing and equipment. As an example, my M1 rifle by itself, weighed in at 9½ pounds. Give or take a pound or two, little da harv was toting around tonnage totaling 75 pounds with him. I was 5 feet 8½ inches tall, and getting shorter by the moment. You couldn’t describe what I was doing as “walking;” I was schlepping one leg after another through a quagmire of wet shit.
Our squad consisted of twelve, equally barely-distinguishable human beings stretched out over an area no more than 25 yards long in any one direction of the triangle formation we tried to maintain. Being one of the shorter and stronger men in the squad meant I would usually be at the point. I guess the army figured da harv was less of a target than a Magic Johnson might be.
Good thinking, don’t you think?
The way the triangle worked was that the point of the triangle moved in the intended direction and the two side points brought up either flank. At certain prescribed intervals, the point man would be relieved.
We were coming to the end of the “sweep,” as it was called, and our sergeant in charge came alongside me in order to become my relief. At this point, I was literally dead in the water. I was so weighted down with muddy boots, that I was more of a statue than anything else.
“How you making it?” He asked.
My Instant and sarcastic response, “I do believe I’ve lost my sex drive.”
It was a funny-bone grabbing moment. We became a laughing triangle.
“Let’s get the hell out of here,” our sergeant shouted. “We’re going home.”
Of course, he wasn’t referring to coming home to the United States, he meant back to our own company area. I had a full 15 months left on my tour of duty in Korea.
It has been years, upon years, upon years since my escapades in a rice paddy located 35 miles north of the 38th parallel in a place once again making the news. It’s called North Korea — the frozen chosen — I’ve listened and paid close attention to what our great and virtuous people have enabled the South Korean people to accomplish. Yes, we did expend life, limbs, minds, and enormous financial treasures as well. Make no mistake, without the Unites States of America there would not be a South Korea, as we know it today.
It’s all in the history books for everyone to behold — the story of what we did, and when and how we did it. When the Chinese hordes poured into North Korea, it was because there was nothing left of the North Korean Army. Without the benefit of the Chinese insurgency, North Korea, the way it exists today, would have been impossibility.
Those of us who were there somehow never seem to forget in total… How can we?
Over 54,000 Americans lost their lives. Over 8,000 were wounded and over $50 billion dollars was added to the intense human suffering. The untold suffering of our prisoners of war at the hands of the North Koreans equals the inhumanities inflicted by any other tyrants in world history. Perhaps then, it should be remembered that these are the same North Koreans who now promise to attack South Korea, as well as the United States. There are some 500,000 Korean War veterans still alive. I wonder how many of them, if any, have been asked their opinion of the North Korean leader’s attitude.
History reports unequivocally that most promises made by dictators to their assumed enemies should not go ignored. The North Korean leader has proven he has little regard for the welfare of even his own people. The people of North Korea remain as a backward Third World Nation, while its leader builds bombs and makes verbal representations of pending war.
Some things never seem to change. The marvelous aroma of early morning coffee brings joyous reflections and a pleasing anticipation of the first sip. On the other hand, the rice paddies of North Korea remain vile with the stench of human wastes.
South Korea continues to blossom. There are 28,500 American troops still on guard there, committed to the retention of a small country’s democracy.
If you’d like to know the truth, ask a Korean veteran.