Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The personal connection of war, decades after my dad left Korea May 26, 2018

The cover of a July 31, 1953, memorial service folder from Sucham-dong, Korea.

 

WAR IS MORE THAN THE FLASH of a news story, a list of statistics, a row of flags marking graves.

 

Photo by Sonny Nealon, Ray’s best friend in high school, Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

War is personal. War is a flag-draped coffin, a name upon a tombstone, grief for a loved one.

 

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

 

I expect nearly every one of you could share a story of a family member who served in the Armed Forces, perhaps even gave his/her life for country.

This Memorial Day—between the travel and fun of the weekend—please reflect on the true meaning of this holiday. Remember those who died on battlefields or along roads or in trenches during too many wars.

 

Page two of the 1953 memorial service bulletin from Korea.

 

I need look no farther than a brown shoebox. It holds the memorabilia of war, of my father’s time as an infantryman on the front lines during the Korean War. Among the photos and other items is a memorial service bulletin dated July 31, 1953, Sucham-dong, Korea. It lists the names of 28 men from the 2nd Battalion, 65th Infantry Regiment who died in service to country.

 

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

 

Among those names, my dad’s Army buddy, Raymond W. Scheibe. Ray died the day before he was to return home to his wife and infant daughter. My heart breaks when I think of that, of my dad witnessing his friend’s death and then Ray’s family getting the awful news back in Nebraska. A young wife left a widow. A daughter never knowing her father. Grieving parents.

 

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

 

War is personal. To think that my dad saved this memorial service bulletin shows me the depths of his grief. He could have tossed the piece of paper after the service—after the singing of patriotic songs and reading of Scripture and prayer and roll call and a moment of silence. But he didn’t. He folded the now yellowed paper into quarters and carried it with him, across the ocean, across the country, back home to Minnesota.

 

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. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Through that action, my father, dead 15 years now, honored his soldier-friend. He assured that the next generation, me, would remember. War is personal. War is a worn slip of paper saved for 65 years.

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FYI: Many opportunities exist in the Faribault area to honor our veterans on Memorial Day. Here’s a partial list:

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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17 Responses to “The personal connection of war, decades after my dad left Korea”

  1. Thank you for posting such a personal tribute. Too many forget that many of us walk around with this weight of grief each day of the year for those we served with. Your father honored his friends memory for all those years and in that way passed on such an important tradition to you. From one combat veteran also holding the loss of a dear combat buddy close, thanks from the bottom of my heart for posting.

  2. Murphy's Law Says:

    God bless them, one and all. Those who fought and died. Those who fought and made it back home. All the families who sacrifice during a war. Thank you for the freedom we enjoy in this country.
    🔹 Ginger 🔹

  3. treadlemusic Says:

    So many thoughts while reading the above. It was a time when joining together with like-minded others in a cause that was larger than ourselves was a noble, self-less endeavor resulting in the feeling of quiet satisfaction that one was making a difference by such a union. A day when the “majority” opinion carried a certain weight. My, how we’ve come a ways from that. Now, the lone voice of dissent sends out a tidal wave of consequences/repercussions that the majority find themselves having to deal with. (ex: the NFL’s National Anthem policy just revealed, the “rights” of a gay couple to purchase a wedding cake from a bakery whose convictions resulted in their loss of a business!).
    The days you wrote of, above, were ones that contained more universally acknowledged acts of heroism for the greater good rather than the hugely tragic acts of deadly terror perpetrated by a young soul who felt so bullied that taking a gun to meet out “justice” was the only option.
    These, indeed, are dark days but I take great comfort in knowing that the Lord is in control of all and sees the ending from the beginning. Honor, respect and love for our fellow man…….it is still around and practiced………………….

  4. Beth Ann Says:

    Your dad and so many others served and sacrificed in so many ways. Thank you for sharing his story.

  5. Jackie Says:

    We can never take for granted what these men and women have done for our country. I’m glad your dad made it back….a changed man I’m sure! God bless those men and women that risked their lives and lost their lives for our country. “Land of the Free, because of the brave”

  6. Bless your father for his service.

    • Thank you, Keith. I had the opportunity to speak with a Vietnam combat veteran yesterday and hear a bit of his story.

      • I had the opportunity to work with many a Vietnam Veteran. Their stories have never left me. My father is WWll Navy vet, but we hardly speak these days unfortunately. When I was a small boy, I used to ask him questions about his service, but he refused to answer.

      • I’m sorry about the strained relationship with your father. The refusal to talk about war experiences seems pretty common for that generation. My dad told only that specific story about his buddy Ray. Eventually, he found comfort in a veterans support group for those dealing with PTSD.

      • I wish my father did. I believe this was his problem that lead to my parents separating. I don’t think they knew about this by name then.

      • Correct. These men came back from war and were expected to return to their “normal” lives. Same for my dad. I’m glad all that has changed and help is available to our veterans.

  7. Thank you for your family’s service to our country.


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