Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

In memory of Cpl. Ray W. Scheibe May 26, 2017

 

 

Ray Scheibe is pictured (to the left) in this May 1953 photo taken by my dad, Elvern Kletscher.

 

WHO WILL YOU REMEMBER on Memorial Day?

I will think of my dad’s Army buddy, Cpl. Ray W. Scheibe, killed by an exploding mortar on June 2, 1953, the day before he was to return home from war to his wife and new baby girl in Nebraska.

 

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

 

I will think of this man who served his country on the battlefields of Korea.

 

 

 

I will think of this man who died a horrible death in a region where the threat of war still exists.

I will think of Ray’s daughter, Teri, whom I searched for and found seven years ago in southwestern Iowa but have yet to meet.

I will think of the grief and pain of so many whose loved ones never returned home from war. These are heavy, deep thoughts laced with patriotism and gratitude and conflict.

 

My dad carried home a July 31, 1953, memorial service bulletin from Sucham-dong, Korea. In the right column is listed the name of his fallen buddy, Raymond W. Scheibe.

 

My dad came back to Minnesota, walking, living, breathing, yet suffering. Teri’s dad returned to Nebraska. Dead. On Monday, I will remember him and the ultimate sacrifice he made for country.

 

FYI: Please click here to read my 2010 story about Ray Scheibe and my efforts to find his daughter. 

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Remembering Cpl. Ray W. Scheibe, my dad’s Army buddy, killed in Korea on June 2, 1953 June 2, 2010

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A portion of the story about Cpl. Ray W. Scheibe, published on the front page of the July 23, 1953, issue of The Wolbach (Nebraska) Messenger.

HER VOICE IS HESITANT, strained, edged with 50 years of grief.

I sit at my dining room table, phone clasped tightly to my ear, listening, jotting notes. In the quiet reserve of her voice, in the words she speaks, I hear her pain.

On June 2, 1953, our lives became forever linked. That day, on the battlefields of Korea, two young American soldiers forged into combat. One of them was blown apart by a mortar while the other watched in horror. My father came home; hers didn’t.

Today, after a two-month search, I am speaking to the daughter of Cpl. Ray W. Scheibe, my dad’s army buddy. I have anticipated this day, prayed for this day, wondered if this day would come. In recent months, I made it my mission to find Ray’s daughter, who was only six weeks old when he died in Korea.

My desire to find Teri Rae was spurred by the tragic story of her dad’s death. Just before he was killed, Ray told his comrades, my dad among them, that he was leaving Korea the next morning. Back home his wife and infant awaited his safe return. The new father was excited about seeing his child for the first time and his buddies shared his joy. That jubilation, however, was short-lived as minutes later the 22-year-old was hit by a deadly mortar.

Ray’s death impacted my dad more than any single wartime tragedy, for it is one of the few war memories he ever shared. He mourned for his buddy who would never see his child and for the child who would never know her father. While my dad always referred to the baby as a 9-month-old son, I learned during my search that the infant was really a 6-week-old daughter. My dad’s memory had failed him, but the memory of Ray’s horrific death never left him.

Now this grown daughter, today a grandmother, is on the phone, speaking to me from her home in southwestern Iowa. Only a week earlier I mailed a two-page letter to Teri, a letter which would change both of our lives. I wrote about our fathers’ friendship, about her dad’s death and about my search.

Teri tells me that she cried for two days after receiving my letter.

My quest for Teri began nearly two years after my dad’s 2003 death. While looking through a shoebox filled with my father’s military belongings, I found clues leading to the identity of Ray Scheibe.

I share with Teri in our phone conversation that I discovered a photo of her dad taken in May 1953. My dad had written “Sgt. Shibe, June 2, 1953” on the back of the photo and drawn a box around it. I recognized the surname, although misspelled, as the one my dad had once spoken when talking about his deceased buddy.

This May 1953 photo, taken by my dad in Korea, helped me track down Ray Scheibe's daughter, Teri Rae. Cpl. Scheibe is on the left.

It is that picture; the discovery of a memorial service bulletin from Korea with Ray’s name listed inside; military documents; internet research into military records; and a phone conversation with Ray’s best friend from high school that confirm the identity of the young soldier from Wolbach, Nebraska.

I compose a letter to Teri and include copies of documents related to her dad, then drop it in the mail, fully expecting I may never hear from her.

But she quickly responds, hers the words of a daughter grieving for her father. “This letter has made him a real person with feelings and personality, before I just knew he existed,” Teri writes in her first correspondence to me. She continues with details about her life and family, about the loss of her beloved husband, Lee, the love of her life, two years earlier.

“My pain has been going on for years it seems like, since I have been born. I have learned to be strong I guess,” Teri continues.

She first learned of her father after starting school in Omaha, Nebraska. Teri’s mom Marilyn had remarried and, as was customary in that time period, death was not openly discussed. But when her teachers called her “Teri Scheibe” instead of “Teri Todd,” her new name, the youngster began to ask questions. For the first time, Marilyn told her daughter about her birth father who died in Korea.

“I know very little about him as no one ever spoke of him,” Teri writes to me. “And I was afraid to ask because they said my mom didn’t take it very well, and I know I was always a reminder. Even his family never spoke of him.”

Now we are on the phone, talking about this man who has been described to me by Robert “Sonny” Nealon as fun-loving, outgoing and a friend to all. Sonny and Ray were best friends who hunted, fished and played sports together while growing up in Wolbach.

The two entered the service on the same day, Ray to the Army and Sonny to the Navy. Sonny, who had been my final contact in finding Teri, was completing his naval tour in California when he learned of Ray’s death. “It was a heart rendering time when we read of Ray’s death in Korea,” Sonny recalls in a letter to me.

He tells of a man nicknamed Pee Wee because Ray stood only five feet seven inches tall. “…recalling the days with Pee Wee brought nothing but smiles and near laughter,” Sonny continues.

It is Sonny’s description of a real, living, breathing person that I wish to share with Teri.  In the depths of 50-plus years of unresolved grief, I hope Teri will see her father through the eyes of his best friend.

I too yearn to know this man who meant so much to my dad. My father never made peace with Ray’s death and in the depths of my heart I carry my dad’s burden of unresolved grief.

As I speak with Teri, sorrow surfaces and I experience a deep sense of relief and of letting go. I sense that Teri, too, as we talk about her dad, his death and the tragedies in her life, is beginning to feel that same peace.

“You gave me a person to cry and grieve for. Thank you!” Teri says.

That first phone conversation is just the beginning of an ongoing correspondence with Teri and Sonny. We exchange photos and personal information. I view photos of Ray as a young man, read newspaper accounts of his death and cry over a snapshot of his tombstone, which reads in part, “Gave his life in Korea, 1953.”

Sonny Nealon sent me this photo he took of his friend Ray's gravestone in Wolbach's Hillside Cemetery.

While Terri struggles with the details of her father’s death, she is comforted by my father’s remembrance of him. “It made me proud that your father thought so highly of him (Ray) and had never forgotten him and liked him,” Teri writes. “I now can imagine a man so excited to be coming home to his family, and he did know about me, because all the letters did not reach him, and he was proud of me and he did love us.”

My father’s memories comfort Teri. Sonny’s memories lift her spirits. “He (Sonny) has made me smile and laugh, which is rare here,” Teri says.

I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome. I can only imagine two fathers smiling down from heaven, delighted that their daughters have connected. A friendship which began on the battlefields of Korea has now come full circle more than half a century later.

#

I wrote this story in 2005 and am publishing it today for the first time in honor of Cpl. Ray W. Scheibe who died in Korea on June 2, 1953. His wife Marilyn died, also on June 2, many decades later. Some day I hope to meet Teri and embrace the woman to whom I am forever linked through the friendship of our soldier fathers.

My dad, Elvern Kletscher, carried home a carefully folded July 31, 1953, memorial service bulletin from Sucham-dong, Korea. In the right column is listed the name of his fallen buddy, Raymond W. Scheibe.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Remembering Ray November 11, 2011

My dad carried home a July 31, 1953, memorial service bulletin from Sucham-dong, Korea.

THEY DIED IN SERVICE to their country—Frankie L. Davis, Eugene Jones, Charles Musgrove, Raymond W. Scheibe…

Names. Of soldiers. Men who were remembered during a July 31, 1953, memorial service in Sucham-dong, Korea.

Names, typed onto a service folder that my dad, Elvern Kletscher, carefully folded and carried home to southwestern Minnesota from the killing fields of Korea.

One name—Ray Scheibe—that meant so much to him. A soldier-brother. His 22-year-old friend. His buddy who died, blown apart by a mortar the day before he was to leave Korea and return home to his wife and 6-week-old daughter in Wolbach, Nebraska.

My father witnessed Ray’s horrific death. He never forgot Ray.

Neither have I.

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

My dad’s been gone since 2003; his buddy since that fateful day during the Korean War on June 2, 1953.

Yet their intertwined lives as soldier-brothers remain forever preserved in black-and-white photos and that service bulletin tucked inside a shoebox stored in my office. Memories of war and of lives lost confined to a box measuring 13 x 6.5 x 4 inches.

This photo, taken by my dad, shows Ray on the left. The photo is dated May 1953. On the back my dad had written: "Sgt. Shibe, June 2, 1953."

It doesn’t seem right, that I should keep these photos and scraps of war in a non-descript box, pushed into the back of a dresser drawer. But that is how my dad kept his war memories, stashed in that shoebox, shoved out of sight, away from family, away from emotions that could easily overwhelm him.

Two years after my dad’s death, I became interested in the contents of that shoebox and began wondering about that baby girl back in Nebraska—Ray’s daughter. I decided to look for her.

After a short search, I found Terri living in Harlan in southwestern Iowa, about five hours from my Faribault home. (Click here to read a previous blog post about finding Terri.) We’ve talked, although not recently, by phone, exchanged e-mails, letters and Christmas cards.

Yet, we’ve never met.

Every Veterans Day, every Memorial Day, every June 2, I think of Terri and her dad and how her dad never came home. And mine did.

Sonny Nealon, Ray's best friend in high school, sent me this photo he took of Ray's gravestone.

© Copyright 2011 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

 

Memorial Day: Greater love has no man (or woman)… May 25, 2012

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

WAR. It is easy to distance ourselves, to forget. Out of sight, out of mind.

But when war becomes personal—when a close loved one is serving his/her country, then the perspective changes. War weaves into lives with threads of fear and uncertainty, with distraction and unease, with life lived always on the cusp of “when the soldier returns home.”

I’ve never lived that life in the present. But I have experienced it in the past, in the afterward of war. My father fought on the front line during the Korean War. Battle forever changed him. How could it not? If you killed someone close enough to see the whites of their eyes, how would you feel? Even if you understood the choice, kill or be killed?

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

My dad lived with the demons of war—the nightmares, the flashbacks of buddies blown apart on the battlefield, the memories of hunger and cold and the digging into foxholes and a sniper picking off members of his platoon and mortar rounds winging toward him.

There is no glory in war or in violent death on the battlefield.

My dad carried home a July 31, 1953, memorial service bulletin from Sucham-dong, Korea. In the right column is listed the name of his fallen buddy, Raymond W. Scheibe.

Sonny Nealon, Ray’s best friend in high school, sent me this photo he took of his friend Ray’s gravestone. Ray was killed by a mortar round on June 2, 1953, the day before he was to leave Korea and return home to his wife and six-week-old daughter in Wollbach, Nebraska. My dad witnessed his buddy’s death.

On this Memorial Day weekend, let us remember, not war, but the men and women who served their country. Remember them as individuals—as sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, aunts and uncles…

Honor them. Respect them. Thank them for giving of themselves to preserve and protect our freedom.

Long-time Cannon City resident Bob respectfully removes his cowboy hat during the playing of taps at the 2011 Memorial Day service at the Cannon City Cemetery. If you want to experience a simple and moving program in a rural cemetery, attend this one at 2 p.m. Monday at Cannon City (near Faribault).

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.

And if they are no longer living, like my dad, honor them by visiting their grave sites or a veterans’ memorial or by attending a Memorial Day service or parade. That is the very least we can do to express our gratitude.

An eagle at the new Veterans Memorial Park in Morristown. The memorial will be dedicated at 3 p.m. Saturday.

TO READ A STORY I wrote about my Dad’s service in Korea, click here. The story was published by Harvest House Publishers in 2005 in the book, God Answers Prayers: Military Edition, edited by Allison Bottke.

HOW WILL YOU HONOR veterans this Memorial Day?

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Reflecting at a veterans’ memorial November 12, 2010

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Rice County Courthouse, Faribault

I DIDN’T ATTEND any Veterans Day ceremonies yesterday, and perhaps I should have. But several days earlier, I paid my own quiet tribute by walking the grounds of the Rice County courthouse where a veterans’ memorial expansion project is underway. For years a lone Civil War statue has stood there honoring those who served.

Today new sidewalks edged by honorary pavers lead to the memorial plaza which will eventually feature that Civil War statue, a torch, bronze eagle, dove, granite columns, flags, benches and gardens. I expect a place for quiet reflection, a place of honor, a place to cry.

Honorary pavers line sidewalks leading to the center of the Rice County veterans' memorial on the courthouse lawn in Faribault.

Veterans’ memorials often move me to tears because they always, always, bring thoughts of my dad, a Korean War veteran. I remember how, months after his 2003 death, my emotions overcame me while viewing the veterans’ memorial in Winona. With grief still gripping my soul, I simply wept.

Such strong emotions did not pervade my thoughts at the site of the new Rice County Veterans Memorial in Faribault. Yet, words and images triggered memories in a quiet, deeply personal way of honoring those who have served our country.

Three letters, KIA, imprinted upon a paver signify the ultimate sacrifice. Killed in action. I thought of my dad's soldier-buddy, Ray Scheibe, who was blown apart by an incoming shell on the day before he was to leave Korea. My dad never got over this loss and was forever haunted by the horrible image of Ray's death.

Even though I knew the trail of white in the sky came from an airliner, I imagined this to be the smoke of gunfire or of bombs or of shells as I took this image of the Civil War statue in Faribault.

I was coming of age during the Vietnam War. I remember the protests, the anger, the peace signs, all of it...

When I look at the MIA/POW flag, I recall the metal bracelet I wore in high school, the bracelet engraved with the name of a soldier held as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. Sadly, I don't remember his name or even know if I still have that bracelet tucked away somewhere in a cardboard box.

When I composed this image, the back of the Civil War statue, I thought about how a soldier must sometimes feel so alone, so vulnerable.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots remembers our veterans November 11, 2009

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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—

death,

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.

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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

 

Memorial Day 2020 observances, abbreviated May 22, 2020

A veteran salutes during the Memorial Day Program at Faribault’s Central Park. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

NEARLY EVERY MEMORIAL DAY, Randy and I honor our war dead in the same fashion. We head downtown Faribault to the parade and then go to Central Park to watch the Memorial Day program. Little changes from year to year with American flags waving, men and women in uniform marching, Scouts handing out flags, patriotic music playing, speeches given, wreaths hung by members of the American Legion Auxiliary…

 

The Rice County, Minnesota, Veterans’ Memorial in Faribault, located on the courthouse lawn.

 

There’s comfort in the familiarity of tradition.

 

Memorial pavers surround the monument, like this one honoring a fallen soldier.

 

KIA, Sgt Donald E. Ponto.

 

Another loss…

 

But this year, because of COVID-19, there will be no parade, no ceremony at the Rice County Veterans’ Memorial and no crowd gathered at Central Park. This saddens me. I always look forward to these public ways in which we show respect and gratitude for those who lost their lives in service to country. But I understand. These are unprecedented times and we need to keep each other safe. The Central Park program will go on, but without audience members gathered on lawn chairs. Rather, the ceremony will be broadcast at 10 am over local radio station KDHL, 920 AM.

 

An overview of the Rice County Veterans’ Memorial.

 

Eagle and dove details.

 

Stone slabs honor branches of the military.

 

My attendance at Memorial Day events traces back to my childhood in rural southwestern Minnesota. My dad, a veteran of the Korean War and a recipient of the Purple Heart, was active in the local American Legion. Every Memorial Day our family attended—and often participated in—the program at the Vesta Community Hall. Several times I read the poem, “In Flanders Fields.” I also sold poppies. Afterward, we piled into the Chevy for the short drive north of town to the cemetery and the gun salute and mournful playing of taps. From early on, the importance of Memorial Day imprinted upon me.

 

A Civil War monument is part of the Veterans’ Memorial.

 

I carried that tradition in raising my three children. Each Memorial Day we attended the parade along Central Avenue in Faribault. And sometimes the program in the park. Some day I hope to take my grandchildren downtown to watch flag-carrying veterans, high school bands and Cub Scouts honoring those who died in service to our country. But not this year. Not during a global pandemic.

 

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

 

THIS POST IS DEDICATED to the memory of Cpl. Ray W. Scheibe. Ray, 22, was killed by an exploding mortar on June 2, 1953, in Korea, the day before he was to return home to Nebraska, to his wife and baby daughter. He was my dad’s Army buddy.

 

Honoring fallen soldiers with a special monument at the Rice County Veterans’ Memorial.

 

Blessed be Ray’s memory. And blessed be the memories of all those who have given their lives for this country.

 

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Memorial Day reflections May 24, 2019

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A veteran salutes during the Memorial Day Program at Faribault’s Central Park. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

IN THE BUSYNESS of this holiday weekend, please take time to remember the real reason for Memorial Day. It is about honoring the men and women who died in service to our country.

I direct you to a blog post I wrote for Warner Press and which published earlier this week. Click here.

 

My dad carried home a July 31, 1953, memorial service bulletin from Sucham-dong, Korea. In the right column is listed the name of his fallen buddy, Raymond W. Scheibe.

 

Read about my dad’s war memories in a shoebox and how he kept the faith on the battlefields of Korea. Read, too, about his buddy Ray, who died there.

Pause. Reflect. Honor. That is the essence of Memorial Day. Not the start of summer.

© Copyright 2019 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.

#

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