Thursday, March 20, 2008
This little vignette is by Joyce Faulkner, author of Sunchon Tunnel Massacre Survivors. Historians have been neglecting the stories (and veterans!) of that war too long. Faulkner is out to rectify that!
When Pat Avery and I first met the nine men featured our new book, Sunchon Tunnel Massacre Survivors, we knew right away that they were special human beings. Oh sure, knowing their history made them interesting subjects. Being POWs in Korea almost 60 years ago is bad enough -- but these guys had survived the unthinkable -- a massacre. They'd watched their buddies fall to the ground, screaming for their mommas. They were shot, bayoneted, bludgeoned -- and left for dead with the bodies of their friends.
I wondered how the experience had effected them. I wondered how they dealt with their memories. I knew I'd respect them long before I met them. I already felt sorry for their ordeal. What I didn't expect was to care about them so much.
By the time that Pat and I finished Sunchon Tunnel Massacre Survivors, we knew more about sorrow, anger, hatred, hunger, and torture than we wanted. The aftermath was equally hard to bear. We heard about the times they'd screwed up -- the drinking, the fighting, the women, the difficulty they had in holding down jobs. The wives told us about their tempers, their troubled sleep, their jumpiness. I spent many a night sobbing over the manuscript for the boys these men had been.
However, there can be no up if there is no down. Hearing about the ugliness was the price that we paid to know these incredible people. We learned about grit and determination and spirit and hope. We saw that even after falling again and again -- these guys continued to get up and try. We learned how those qualities kept Ed and Bob and Jim and Walt and Valdor and Bill and Allen and Sherman and George alive in Korea -- and how they kept them reaching for happiness ever since their return.
This is a picture of me and Sherman Jones. He was the most seriously injured of the survivors during the massacre. He was shot in the face, side, and leg. One foot has been partially amputated. Sherman endured many surgeries on his face to give him some quality of life. He's very bright, but obviously there was some degree of brain damage and he gets over excited in exciting situations. He has no emotional brakes. When he's happy, he's happy..when he's mad, he's MAD..when he loves you, he loves completely. We call him the hugger and plan events with 15 minutes of welcoming hugs beforehand and 15 minutes of goodbye hugs at the end. We worry about him, love him and are grateful that he's still with us. He's a blessing...
Carolyn Howard-Johnson wrote the foreword for Eric Dinyer's book of patriotic quotations, Support Our Troops, published by Andrews McMeel. Part of the proceeds for the book benefit Fisher House. Her chapbook of poetry won the Military Writers Society of America's award of excellence.