Tale of Courage This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

November 14, 2016
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My great-grandmother is one of the bravest people I have ever met. Although she is nearly ninety years old now, and her memory is fading fast, she can vividly recount significant moments in her life, and I had a chance to listen to her story last year. Through my great-grandmother’s life story, I was able to learn about how courage, perseverance, and grit are important in building character.

My great-grandmother was born in Korea on February 12, 1928. She was a young woman, just 19, when she married my great-grandfather, who was a teacher. Before the Korean War, Japan had ruled Korea; after World War II, Korea was liberated from Japan and was free to become its own country once more. However, Korea’s division caused what is now known as North and South Korea, and a war was sparked between the two nations in 1950. It was around this time that my grandmother was born; she was the youngest of two including my great aunt.

Although I have known my great grandma for my whole life, I have never met or seen my great-grandfather. He had been taken in 1950 after teaching at school one day, and was driven off to an unknown place with other men. My great grandma never saw him again. As a result of this, my grandma and great-aunt grew up fatherless, and my great grandmother was forced to fend for herself and her daughters in an era of war and confusion. Because of bombings, gunfire, and US and Korean soldiers everywhere, my great-grandmother fled her hometown and headed towards Busan, the only major city not taken by North Korea. She did all this with two young children; one two years old and the other two months.


 My great-grandmother vividly recounts a time when she was leaving her home to get out of the war zone with other fleeing civilians. It was night, and after walking for hours with a newborn baby on her back and a toddler clutching her hand, she was exhausted and hungry. She sat down by the side of the road to make rice and fill her belly and her childrens’ stomachs as well. All around her, people were exclaiming and told her, “If you don’t go now, you’ll be caught by the North Koreans!” or “War is coming! Hurry up and leave!” But my great-grandma waited hours to eat a meal, as rice takes a long time to cook, and with full stomachs, she and her daughters resumed their journey. My great-grandmother actually made it to a city named Incheon. There, she sought to find a job and make a living to support her family. For much of their early lives, my grandmother and great aunt lived in Incheon as my great grandmother took on odd jobs to provide income, eventually moving to Seoul and then to America.

My great grandmother has demonstrated courage and perseverance throughout much of her life. She endured the sorrow of losing her husband at a young age, the difficulty of leading her children through war zones, and the fear of death and capture by the North Koreans. My great grandmother, most of all, showed strong faith in God, and she believes it is only through God’s grace that she was able to survive and take care of her children. She passes down her incredible life story, which I have only touch based on a few of the incidents in her life, and from her I have learned to have courage and faith in God during dire moments.

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