Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Veterans’ Day: Grief in a shoebox November 11, 2012

IT IS BUT A SINGLE SLIP of paper, creased and yellowing with age. Yet, it is so much more. The words typed thereon, 59 years ago, hold heartache and honor and memories of my soldier father and his buddy.

My father shipped home from Korea into the welcoming arms of family.

Cpl. Ray W. Scheibe shipped home from Korea in a box, to a grieving family.

The third section of the memorial service bulletin my soldier dad carried home from Korea.

It’s all there, on that piece of paper, a memorial service bulletin dated July 31, 1953, Sucham-dong, Korea. My father folded that paper into quarters, carried it across the ocean and across the country and back home to southwestern Minnesota and then tucked his grief inside a shoebox.

A story about Cpl. Ray W. Scheibe, published in the July 23, 1953, issue of  his hometown newspaper, The Wolbach Messenger, Wolbach, Nebraska.

Cpl. Ray William Scheibe lost his life in Korea June 2, 1953, when he was hit by a round of mortar fire, according to information received from a buddy. He was a member of an infantry unit and was on patrol duty at the time of his death.—from The Wolbach Messenger, Thursday, July 23, 1953.

Sgt. Elvern Kletscher, my father, witnessed the horrific death of Ray, who was due to ship out the next day. Back in tiny Wolbach, Nebraska, Ray’s wife, Marilyn, and their 3-month-old daughter, Terri Rae, waited.

The memorial service bulletin lists the names of those soldiers who died, including Ray Scheibe.

Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13—scripture quoted in the memorial service folder dated July 31, 1953, Sucham-dong, Korea.

An in-ground marker honors my father, Elvern Kletscher, a Korean War veteran and recipient of the Purple Heart for wounds he suffered at Heartbreak Ridge in Korea. My father did not receive his Purple Heart until 2000.

This Veterans’ Day let us remember, always, those who have served and are serving.

My father, Elvern Kletscher, left, with two of his soldier buddies in Korea.

The cover of the 1953 memorial service folder from Korea.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


24 Responses to “Veterans’ Day: Grief in a shoebox”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    What a beautiful tribute post! I was moved. I don’t think anyone can even begin to imagine what some of our veterans have done for the freedom that we now embrace. It takes a special kind of person to leave family to go fight for a country that they love–to defend it and risk losing their own life in order to secure our freedom that we so often take for granted. Thank you for highlighting your dad’s service and all of the veterans that have long been ignored and forgotten.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I always, always, think of my dad and Ray on Veterans’ Day and Memorial Day. Dad didn’t talk much about Korea, but he shared about Ray. Several years ago I found Ray’s daughter in Iowa and hope to someday meet her.

  2. Allan Landman Says:

    We thank God for the Brave young Men and Women who serve our Great Country in Time of battle. God Bless them and the Family members who were left to grieve their losses. America is the Greatest Country on Earth! Our armed forces have kept us great and protected our Freedom since our beginning. May God continue to stand over us and protect us from our enemies. Thanks to all who served and are serving for the United States of America. GOD BLESS YOU ALL!

  3. Beautiful Post – great way to honor the Veterans! My dad and his 6 brothers served in the Air Force – one of his brothers was in South Korea (he took his life on the 1 year anniversary of 9/11 – tragic) and one of his brothers served in Vietnam. Happy Sunday:)

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I’m so sorry about your uncle taking his own life. These soldiers have so much to deal with after having fought in a place like Korea. If your uncle experienced horrors similar to those my dad experienced…

  4. treadlemusic Says:

    So many gave so much (their ‘all’, in some cases) to secure(?) for us that which we take so much for granted as citizens of this great country!!! Thank you so much for the beautiful post!!! Blessings and hugs…..Doreen

  5. What a great picture of your father in Korea. My father was a career military man. He was in during the Korean War but was not sent there. He did serve two year-long tours as an advisor/supply expert in Vietnam. It was strange to have him gone for so long. Back then, of course, we did not have Skype, etc. We relied on letters. I feel very lucky that my father came home safe and sound.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Ditto. I’m so thankful my dad returned home safe also. He fought on the front lines in Korea and thus was right in the thick of combat as a foot soldier/infantryman.

  6. Brad Gimmestad Says:

    To all our precious veterans

    Ooooooh Rah….Sempre Fi….Mighty Fine

    Thank You

  7. Jackie Says:

    So thankful for your dad, and so many other men and women who have helped to keep our nation free!. Loved the picture of your dad, cant imagine the horror those men endured while on duty and what remained in their minds after. Thanks for a wonder reminder of the brave men and women that have served for our country.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I have a shoebox of photos my dad took while in the Army and copies of some letters he sent home. So precious to me now and, oh, how I wish I had asked Dad to share the stories he held locked away.

  8. That’s so sad, Audrey, but it’s so important to post things like this. You are so blessed your father returned from Korea but I’m sorry he had to be involved xx

  9. ljhlaura Says:

    A moving post and some great images, including the one of your father in Korea. Thank you for reminding us with this wonderful post of the sacrifices made for our freedom.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thank you. I love that photo, too. Makes me see my dad in a whole different way, to imagine him as a young man and how difficult it must have been for him to leave home, to travel so far, to fight in a war.

  10. Jolene Bergner Says:

    Oh yes – very touching indeed. Even her title – gives me chills.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thank you. I was thinking that “Grief in a shoebox” might make for a fine poem title for a poem I need to write.

  11. Lovely title. I’m sitting in my favorite cafe and wiping the tears away. I wish his wife and child could read this post.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Ah, Gretchen, I did not mean to make you cry. The title just came to me and I really like it and am contemplating using those words to inspire a poem.

      I didn’t write this in this particular post. But I found Ray’s daughter, Terri, several years ago in southwestern Iowa. Long story, but we talked on the phone and have exchanged emails and letters. Her family never talked about her birth father and she did not learn of his existence until starting kindergarten. Her mother had remarried and death was not a topic of discussion back in those days.

      Terri was overwhelmed with joy and emotion regarding the connection between our fathers. I really, really, really want to meet Terri some day. Her mother (Ray’s wife) is no longer living. She died on a June 2, can’t recall the year, just like Ray died on June 2.

      To have found Terri more than 50 years after our fathers fought together in Korea was a miracle and a blessing and just incredible. See why I want to meet her?

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