Cursing before meals not permitted
The year was 1951. Yes, we were fighting the Korean War. But President Harry Truman called it a police action.
We were fighting the Chinese communists on the central front, on the famous 38th parallel, I was part of the 40th Division, 143rd Field Artillery Battalion "B" Battery. My part in this war was to feed 150 men in the "B" Battery three times a day.
As first cook on my shift, it was my job to see that all food was prepared correctly and to supervise the other kitchen people. When we served a meal, the men would come through the serving line to have food put in their mess kits. In civilian life it would be known as cafeteria style.
One such day, at noon lunch time, everything was going fine. Then the line stopped. I said, "Come on, let's keep this line moving," but no one moved. I frowned at the soldier that was next. He pointed down with his finger. I looked down, and thought "Can this be true what I am seeing?" All I could see was two little hands holding a mess kit and two of the biggest eyes I had ever seen looking right at me. I was stunned until I heard aloud outburst of profane and blasphemous language followed by the word, "Chow." With this oration I put some food in his mess kit:
After lunch I talked to our first sergeant. Where did this Korean kid come from? The answer was, he ran away from an orphanage in Seoul and hitchhiked rides from the truck drivers until he got up here on the front. He is living in the tent with the Korean KPs.
Later I went to the KP's tent. I asked to see if this little kid was there. The interpreter replied yes, and brought him out. I said "Tell him if he wants to get some food, from now on he will have to say 'please' before the food, and 'thank you' after he receives it."
The little guy looked confused. I told the interpreter to make sure that the little one understood what I said. Please and thank you were new words to this kid.
Then I asked the little one, 'Who taught you to speak the GI language?" He proudly stuck out his chest and proclaimed, "24th Division soldiers speak." The Following meals all produced a please and thank you from him.
As the days rolled on we would meet, he would flash a big smile or one of those typical Korean grins. I always had loved kids and we were kind of bonding.
Friday nights were movie nights. This Friday I asked the 1st sergeant if I could take my little Korean friend to the movie with me. "Yes you can, but you are responsible for him."
I went to his tent and had one of the KPs ask the little one if he wanted to go to the movie with me. He had a strange look on his face and shook his head yes. I don't think he had any idea what was going to happen.
The night air was chilly, so I let him use my field jacket. He noticed the sergeant stripes immediately and thought this was big stuff. We walked over to the truck which would take us to Headquarters Battery to see the movie.
When we were at the truck I yelled to one of the soldiers, "I'm going to boost this kid up to you, grab him will you?" Then I got up in the truck and sat down on the bench. My little friend was between me and the next guy. My friend pointed to the stripes and made a motion with his butt for him to move over . "Me sergeant", said my little friend.
We arrived at the movie building and went in. The benches were constructed of a short pole embedded in the ground, with planks affixed to them. The movie didn't start for awhile.
This little guy was getting rambunctious. He also had a runny nose. I got my handkerchief out, put it to his nose, and said, "blow". I didn't know if he stood me, but it worked. Some things are universal especially if you use sign language.
Suddenly the lights went out. My little friend let out a yelp and grabbed me with all his might. I put my arm around him and said, "It's OK", and he relaxed somewhat. Then came the biggest surprise of all his life. The projector lit up and there they were in all there splendor, Mickey Mouse and his girlfriend Minnie.
My little friend just stared at first. He had never seen talking mice before. After awhile he seemed to catch on and he would let out tiny squeals. What a great pleasure. This cartoon was followed by a Donald Duck Cartoon. My little friend was so thrilled he could hardly contain himself.
The main feature was not as exciting. When we got back to our area, he raced back to his tent and started telling the other Koreans what he had experienced. He was jabbering in Korean as fast as he could. Seeing my little friend so excited really made my day.
A few days later the Korean CIA came up and took him back to the orphanage in Seoul. I felt very sad when I found out that he was gone. I never had a chance to say goodbye or give him some candy bars for a present. However, I did give him something that could take through life...three good words in English, please and thank you!!!
l hope God has been watching him these past forty-seven years and has given him a brighter future than he started with. This is my wish.