As kids we grew up in the shadow of the Korean War but were protected from the details
Sauntering along the London Embankment in June I suddenly came across an imposing bronze figure (type) of my 19 year old father as a soldier. Ironically, in only a few days time, I would be travelling to SA to see my ageing, real life, dad, now 88 years old. As kids we grew up in the shadow of the Korean War, aware that he had fought in it but he protected us from the details and I had no idea this memorial existed.
Travelling solo meant I did not have to explain myself to anyone and so I stood there and openly sobbed.
A young man respectfully approached the bronze soldier and stood silently there for a long time. He was from South Korea; turned to me and thanked my father from the bottom of his heart and the hearts of his extended family for fighting for their freedom. What serendipity to hear that my father’s experience was not in vain!
Frankly I care not for the politics – the hows and the whats.
But I mind very much that Britain sent ill equipped troops to fight in unimaginable conditions – and then shamefully ‘forgot’ to acknowledge their veterans of the Korean War.
The War Memorial that now stands in London was a gift from the Republic of Korea (ROK) to honour the British troops that served between 1950 and 1953 and was unveiled in December 2014 – more than 60 years after the war.
There are only a few veterans still alive and soon the stories will go to the graves with them.
When I spent the 5 weeks with my parents in July my dad began to open up … a bit (and I hope to return in October to listen to more). The facts are horrific and harrowing. I’m not sure what to do with them and I’m astonished he stayed sane; very thankful that we kids did not have to ‘wear his emotional shrapnel’.
All I’ll say at this stage is: He returned to England a broken man; met a loving woman and turned his back on Britain for a life in Africa. I’m just beginning to appreciate the role my mother’s steady, gentle manner, love and support has had in helping my dad. And I’m keen to hear things from her side too.
He came with His…tory.
She has Her…story.
As a member of the next generation, I’m grappling with whether it is my role to tell their story and how I’d even go about it.