This Veteran’s Day, family shares personal story
By Stephanie Kwon
Benjamin froze. He had been caught by soldiers from the wrong side.
Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s forces had already pushed the North Korean soldiers back north past Seoul. Having lost contact with his father and four other siblings, Benjamin and his younger brother had returned to his school on the outskirts of the city. They had been staying in one of the empty buildings. In the hasty, disorganized retreat of the North Korean forces, soldiers had been left behind and stragglers were still trying to find their way north.
These were the soldiers pointing guns at Benjamin. “Keep your hands up and march down to the basement,” they ordered the boys.
With a lump in his throat, Benjamin obeyed orders and headed down the stairs to the basement, sure that he was about to meet his end. When gunfire sounded behind him, he fell with his face to the ground, certain his prediction was about to come true.
After a brief inventory of his body parts, Benjamin was relieved to find he was not only alive but uninjured. The North Koreans had used the youths to check if the basement was clear. Benjamin’s relief lasted only momentarily, however, as the soldiers then ordered him to march outside.
“God,” he prayed, “if you will save me from this situation I promise to devote my life to your work.”
This time the soldiers ordered Benjamin to kneel on the ground. He knew with a certainty that they now intended to execute him and his brother. Again he heard gunshots and fell to his face. Amazingly, after a few moments and a brief inventory of his body, he found he was still alive and uninjured! He raised his eyes to see a group of American soldiers, with one of his teachers, had arrived just in time; the gunshots he heard were from the rescuing party.
Benjamin was my grandfather, and this and other stories were told to us as children to teach us not only the amazing saving power of our God, but also the deep gratitude our veterans deserve from us.
We all have reason to be grateful to our veterans. We all enjoy freedoms and security that we would not have without them, which is a large enough reason to say thank you.
For me, however, as an American with Korean ancestry, simply put, I would not exist, let alone have the privilege of living in this country, if it had not been for the American soldiers who were there that day, men and women who answered the call to lay their lives on the line to assist a small nation – one some probably never heard of – in an effort to contain a threat to the freedoms our country champions.
I was also told stories from my other grandfather, who worked as a translator for the American soldiers, of returning pilots who were so tired from their missions that they returned to base only to crash into the sea, mistaking the water for the runway. In a world where our daily lives are untouched by the conflicts and dangers that we send our soldiers to face, it is easy to forget the real impact military men and women are having on lives every day. Lives like those of my grandfathers.
Tragically, it is also too easy to forget the sacrifices U.S. military men and women made and continue to make. They sacrifice time with their families and loved ones, they sacrifice their own security and health, and too many have made the ultimate sacrifice. I feel very deeply the debt I owe to not only veterans of the Korean War but also all veterans and active service members. But gratitude is a sentiment that is all too often felt and not often enough expressed.
This year for Veterans Day, I did not want to miss another opportunity to say thank you, and I hope you will join me. Thank you, veterans. Thank you for your service, thank you for your sacrifice, thank you for protecting us and the things we hold dear.
Stephanie Kwon and her husband, Dr. Paul Kwon, have lived in Quincy for more than six years, and feel so blessed to have made their home here. She spends most of her time trying to keep up with the couple’s two little boys.