Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas in Korea - A Cold Warrior's story

I have had various Cold War Veterans share their Christmas stories with me. Here is the first one which is a re-post from last year.

It still gets to me. I will share others over the next few days.

Christmas Eve, 1979, Republic of Korea.
   It was dark and cold on the flight line. I was all bundled up in my parka and layers of clothing. I was alone with nothing but the lights in each revetment to keep me company. I walked with my toolbox by the revetments all lined up on either side of a taxiway. The revetments were big half shells of cement and steel designed to protect the aircraft from attack. Each one contained an F-4E Phantom fighter. The fighters were painted in various shades of olive drab in a camouflage pattern. Save for the nose that was painted with the large black eyes, white teeth and blood red mouth of a shark.  On the back of the revetment was a fence separating the restricted aircraft areas and the rest of the base.
   Soon I found the revetment containing the fighter I needed to work on. I climbed up on the left wing and opened a panel on the fuselage.  It was Christmas Eve, and I was on the other side of the planet from my South Dakota home. It was cold and the wind whistled through the half shell buildings. I worked on the broken wires frequently blowing on my hands to keep them warm. The work was too delicate to do with gloves on. I didn’t feel sorry for myself though it would have been nice to have some company.  There were many places, warm places, I would have rather been.
   Is I worked I began to hear singing. Familiar music but the words I didn’t understand. I climbed off the aircraft and followed the singing to behind the revetment. I went through an opening and found myself standing next to the fence.  On the other side of the fence lined up facing me there were about ten Korean children and a couple of adults. The children were singing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas in Korean. As I stood there they then sang Silent Nightand I joined in. After the songs one of the adults came up and said, “Merry Christmas Sergeant. We saw you out here by yourself so the children wanted to sing to you so we stopped the bus.”
   This was about as much as I could handle as the tears started rolling down my face.
   “All this just for me?” I asked quietly.
   “Yes Sergeant. The children know you are far from home to protect them so they wanted to give you their song.”
   I knelt down to the level of the children and said thank you, “Kom som ni da, kom som ni da” over and over and to each one individually.
   The children started talking back as they waved and headed back to the bus. They shouted things in Korean I didn’t understand. The man looked at me and said, “They are saying, thank you freedom soldier.” I thanked him once again as he left to join the children. The children and I waved to each other as they drove away. I walked back to the aircraft and climbed the wing and got back to work. “How wonderful, “I thought, “kind of makes it all worthwhile.  Thank you Lord for the gift … and … Happy Birthday.”
   It was cold and dark and quiet as I worked on the fighter. I didn’t notice, for I was lit up with warmth and happiness.

-  MSgt Glenn P. Kuehner, USAF (Ret)

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Where did you serve? Military or Civilian? Stateside or Overseas. Fulda Gap? Berlin? NATO? CIA? State Department? The Dew Line? On a Missile Battery? Down in a Silo? At Sea? Under the Sea? In the Air? According to the VA over 26 million Vets are still alive. I'd bet that most served in the 1945-1991 time frame and I'd like to share your story on this blog. As long as it isn't still classified, email me with your story and I will post it here.