Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Minnesota Prairie Roots remembers our veterans November 11, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:57 AM

Elvern Kletscher w 2 buddies

My father, Elvern Kletscher, left, with two of his soldier buddies in Korea, where he fought on the front line.

Tribute to a Korean War Veteran

He can still hear

the rattle of the tin pail

as the Korean children beg

for food scraps

from the young American soldiers.


He is there, in uniform,

looking into the dark, slanted eyes

that peer through the barbed wire fence,

eyes hungry for food,

eyes hungry for more than he can give.


The children tug at his heart

in this land so foreign to him,

so far from the flat lands of Minnesota,

where he worked the soil,

a young farmer until he became a soldier.


Orders. Sent to the front line,

rifle in hand,

armed to fight Communism,

a faceless intellectual word to the world,

but here a word with a face, the enemy.


He is dug now, deep in a foxhole,

hugging the earth,

boots planted firmly in the dirt,

braced for war,

braced for death.


It is all around him—


this death for freedom—

young men like him blown up

before his eyes, blood everywhere.


The enemy is so close

he can see the whites of their eyes

before he shoots.

It is him or them.

He fires.


Death is always there,

like the cold that seeps inside his bones,

like the hunger that never goes away,

like the fear that keeps him alive.

Life or death in the trigger of a rifle.


It still haunts him, nearly five decades later,

when he is an old man

back home in Minnesota,

with war encased in a wooden box

hung on his living room wall.


His dog tags, his military-issue spoon, his medals,

the Purple Heart he received forty-seven years

too late

for the bloody wounds of war,

wounds that pierced more than his flesh.


Nine months of hell stretched into a life-time

of battles

of nightmares

of flashbacks

to the eyes of war.


Shieldsville memorial

The veterans of Shieldsville are honored in this "Never Forgotten" memorial. Even though labeled "the Forgotten War," the Korean War will never be forgotten by those who served and by those of us who loved them.

THE ABOVE POEM HONORS my father, Elvern Kletscher of Vesta, and his buddy, Ray Scheibe of Wolbach, Nebraska. They fought side-by-side on the front lines during the Korean War. My dad came home. Ray did not.

In May 2000, my father received a Purple Heart for wounds suffered in February 1953 in Korea. This poem was made public for the first time at his visitation and funeral in April 2003 and was later published in the May/June 2009 issue of Minnesota Moments magazine.

I also wrote a story, “Faith and Hope in a Land of Heartbreak,” about my dad’s service in Korea. That was published by Harvest House Publishers in 2005 in the book God Answers Prayers Military Edition—True Stories from People Who Serve and Those Who Love Them, collected and edited by Allison Bottke.

Today, on Veterans’ Day, let us honor all who dutifully served, and serve, their country. Let us especially remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice and gave their lives for freedom.

Korea, hell

My dad brought this "RETURNED FROM HELL" patch home from Korea.

Morristown cemetery

A veteran's grave at Zion Evangelical Cemetery, rural Morristown.

Northfield soldier

A soldier at the Northfield Area Veterans Memorial in Riverside Lions Park, Northfield.

© Copyright 2009 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Submit Friday flowers nominees

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:53 AM

NOMINATIONS ARE ONCE again needed for Minnesota Prairie Roots’ virtual Friday flowers feature.

Every Friday I select individuals, businesses or organizations deserving of recognition, needing encouragement or celebrating a special occasion. They are listed in a weekly Friday post that includes a photo of flowers.

You may submit a nominee via e-mail or a comment to this post. I’ll pull the necessary information and then delete your comment. Please include information explaining why the suggested recipient is deserving of virtual Friday flowers. In most cases, only first names of individuals will be listed.

I will review all submissions and reserve the right to decline any nomination. Please submit only one request per week. The deadline is today, Wednesday.

© Copyright 2009 Audrey Kletscher Helbling