Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

January 5, 2013

How soon we forget

For many of my generation our world was violently turned upside down when in June of 1950 the North Koreans invaded South Korea.

Many of us had just lived through the home front traumas and sacrifices of WWII.

Gas and food rationing, meatless Tuesdays, and those horrible telegrams from the Secretary of War were all common during my youth.

I had reported to Parris Island, S.C. as a boot, a new recruit, just days before North’s attack. Those kind hearted drill instructors were the first to tell us of the war we would soon fight.

While I continued my training at Parris Island, my fellow Marines stood up to the North Koreans and delayed them at the Pusan Perimeter.

The landings at Inchon were history by the time I stepped onto the beach. The way north was a highway as I moved up.

As winter came the temperatures dropped to well below zero; the icy cold winds howled and blew snow sideways. And then the Chinese came into the fight.

Our Marines and soldiers had to march south from the Chosin Reservoir to Hagaru Ri and on to Hungnam. Our wounded and fallen made the trip to the sea, as no one was left behind.

At SS Peter and Paul Cemetery here in Cumberland, the grave of one of the Tri-State’s sons can easily be found.

William E. Shuck Jr., SSgt., USMC, was born in 1926; he was killed in action 1952 while fighting in Korea.

He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest award for valor in combat, for his actions during that last fight.

He refused both treatment for his wounds and evacuation until his Marines were accounted for and safe. As he assisted in removing the last causality an unseen sniper took his fife.

Korea is often called the forgotten war. Nearly 60,000 Americans made the ultimate sacrifice while fighting on the other side of the world. We sacrificed, we fought, and some of us suffered grievous wounds.

But we are the ones that are often forgotten. Every veteran deserves to have their service remembered. We all served under circumstances that many of our fellow citizens cannot comprehend.

The crump of a mortar round as it hits its target nearby; the crack of a high velocity rifle bullet as it files barely over your head, and the plaintive cries of “Corpsman!” or “Medic!” from wounded soldiers and Marines often live vividly in the veteran’s fitful sleep.

To forget one group of veterans, whether they served in combat or not, is inconceivable.

We are only free because brave citizens answer the call to serve and go to the sounds of the guns on that often distant and hostile shore.

This fact, the forgotten nature of the Korean War was brought home to me just last month when the Times-News ran an article that cites a report that Maryland’s Veterans cemeteries were seeing more cremations as Vietnam, WWII, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans were choosing this method of burial.

We have been told in the past that WWII veterans were passing away at a rate of 1,000 each day.

Many WWII veterans fought in Korea as well. And likewise many Korea veterans served in Vietnam.

But our service is often, unfortunately, forgotten.

GySgt. Milton Davis, USMC (Ret.)

Keyser, W.Va.

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