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“Come back daddy,” I remember my daughter telling me with her big, soft eyes pleading me.
I clearly remember looking her straight in the eyes and confidently saying, “I promise.”
Then, I gave her a big hug, and I left. I left her with my sister looking after her. I left to war. To the war that would end thousands of lives.
So here I am now. The date is exactly June 26, 1950. It is one day after the war between South Korea and North Korea had started. Thousands of other soldiers like me are standing right beside me, in an orderly line. The soft whispers of worry, and anxiety flows through the dry, cracked lips from soldier to soldier. But I stay quiet, not wanting to say anything. The rhythmic beat of the feet shuffling are inevitably loud. With every step, clouds of dust are flying everywhere, causing soldiers to cough.
My once shiny black boots are being spoiled by the dirty brown dust. It is now coated in mud and dirt. But my green cotton trouser and shirt are immaculate. But in the hot, scorching sun above, my cotton uniform is causing me to sweat. There is no breeze of air, and it is extremely humid. Straight ahead of me, I can see heat waves, waving up and down. I desperately need water, but I am too afraid to ask my general to give me water. The trees to the side do not wave back and forth, but instead, they stand perfectly still. The grass is turning yellow, and mosquitoes are eating us alive.
My brown helmet is shielding my head and my long black hair. Sweat slowly trickles down my short, stubby face, and my big, clumsy hands are clamped onto my gun.
I hold my gun straight against my chest, as I march. I had never held a gun before. To be honest, I am quite afraid to be holding this gun at the moment. I remember when my general handed me this gun. I was almost afraid to accept it.
“Do you know where we are going?” suddenly asks one of the soldiers next to me.
I look over at him, and he is sweating bucket full’s of water. He has a worried expression to his face, and he looks as if he is going to faint in any moment. But for some odd reason, his eyes are twinkling, as if he is excited for something. “No,” I respond. “I’ve got no clue where we are going,” I say truthfully.
“Okay,” he simply replies.
Straight ahead of me, I see some armored tanks and cars. They are strolling along in search of any danger. The grey, suffocating steam bubbles out of the back, and rise into the perfect blue sky.
“Where are the North Koreans?” asks the same soldier beside me.
“I don’t know,” I reply with the same answer.
“This is going to be so much fun. I’ve never used a gun before, and I finally get to use one now. This is such an exciting adventure,” he says, with his eyes gleaming with excitement.
I look over at him, and I think that he is crazy. How can war be so much fun? In a way, I wish that I am as excited as he is. I wouldn’t have the fear and the nervousness inside me. I wish that I can pretend that this is all an exciting adventure as well. But I can’t. I’m not that type of person. My tame, quiet personality doesn’t allow me to even think and pretend that sort of way.
I look at my watch and the two arrows point at exactly 12:00. We are still walking down this lonely, dirty path. It is soon lunch time. I can feel blisters start to form underneath my feet. They hurt, and I try to walk on the sides of my feet, so I can avoid popping the blisters.
Suddenly, a loud roar coming from every side deafens my ear. Through the entire deafening rumble, I hear what sounds like a whisper, “Down! Down! Down!”
Obediently, I collapse to the ground. My heart beats so fast, that it feels like it’s all the way up my throat, and sweat quickly rolls down the side of my face. I place my arms over my head, and I try to regain my focus. Through all of the madness, I realize that all of the loud noises are the sounds of the gunshots ripping through the air. With every gunshot, my hands tremble with my gun.
Through all of the gunshots, I can still hear the loud shrieks of the soldiers that are getting shot at the moment. All around me, I see soldiers falling down onto the ground, with big red stains on their chests. I frantically look around my surroundings, and I can’t help but feel my stomach feel oozy. My stomach hurts, and my ears are deafened.
Everywhere I see, I see grenades being thrown. Soon after, those grenades rock the ground beneath me, causing me to quiver even more. The grenade blows up a deep hole into the earth, and couple of men shoots up into the air, with blood splattering out of their bodies.
I look away, horrified at what I’m experiencing. Beside me, I see the young soldier who had just conversed with me a while ago. His face is smiling with excitement, and he shoots his gun like a mad man. He shouts in delight.
The sky is being replaced with dark, thick clouds, darkening the battlefield. All of the mosquitoes have flown away, for they don’t want to be caught in this war as well.
Suddenly, I realize what a coward I am. I can barely stand up and use my gun. All around me soldiers are dying, but here I am huddled up, protecting myself from all of the madness and evil. Why did I even sign up to fight in this war? Was it because I was so patriotic for my country? Was it because I didn’t want my country to become communist?
I don’t want to be in this war. I want to feel the warmth of my daughter in my arms, and I want to protect her. My heart’s racing, but no matter how much I regret signing up for this war, I have to help fight for my country now. There is no backing out now. I signed up, and I am a man of integrity.
So I stand up, with my legs trembling with everlasting fear. With my legs shaking, I try to balance myself, and focus on the enemy. Through all of the madness, I spot a North Korean. He has his back faced towards me, and it’s a clear shot for me.
I lift my gun, and I focus on my victim. My fingers are placed on the trigger, but I can’t shoot. I can’t help myself to shoot him. If I shoot him, I am no different from everyone else here.
As I stand there with my fingers trembling on the trigger, I think to myself. Is war the real answer to any conflict? Why is violence the solution to everything? Why can’t we just talk everything out? Mankind has become so violent and evil. Is it so hard to love everyone and treat everyone like our brothe… “AHHH!” I yell out in pain.
Suddenly, I feel a sharp pain in my leg. I collapse onto the ground, and everything is dizzy. My leg goes numb, and I start seeing things. I still see the soldiers shooting, and I can still hear the loud rumbles of the war, but something is different. I can’t put any pressure on my left leg, and I topple onto the ground.
My head is suddenly light, and then I feel the pain in my leg. The numbness disappears, and excruciating pain takes its spot. My leg throbs, and I beg for help, shrieking as loud as I can. But my shouts are not heard through the madness. Why can’t anyone hear me? Why can’t anyone help me? I wave my arms back and forth, but no response comes forth. I sit there stranded. I feel isolated, and I suddenly feel lonely.
I look down at my leg, and I see the red stain growing bigger and bigger. Finally, my trouser and shirt are dirty. It wasn’t dirty before, but it is now…
Then, I see drips of blood falling onto the dirty ground. Drip, drip, drip. Oh no, I think. It can’t be. I place my hands on the side of my neck, and all I see is a puddle of thick red blood glued onto the palm of my hands. There is no pain, for I am dazed. I just sit there while the war continues. The throbbing in my leg continues, and the bleeding from my neck continues.
Then out of nowhere, a soldier collapses onto the ground, right beside me. His chest is stained with the blood. With the energy that I have, I look over at him and I realize that it is the soldier that had just conversed with me before all of this insanity. His eyes are cold, and he touches my arm, wanting my help. I just sit there, staring at him. I watch his slow, painful death. His hands are icy cold and his face is white. He tries to talk, but nothing comes out of his bloody lips.
Soon afterwards, the soldier dangles in my weak arms. His cold eyes stare at the grey sky above us. He doesn’t move. He doesn’t talk. The bleeding stops.
I look at him, and I whisper, “Is this what you wanted? Was this that fun?”
He doesn’t respond. I know why he doesn’t respond.
As every second passes by, I am losing more blood from my neck. With every second, I start to feel dizzier and dizzier. Soon, my vision starts to fuzz up and I know that I am becoming blind. My body aches, and my ears hurt from all of the traffic around me. I let go of the soldier. I feel like staying here. I feel like dying too. I want to give up too. But just as that thought passes through my mind, I see my daughter standing right beside me. Her bright white dress illuminates everything around me and her glowing eyes makes me want to smile. But she has a worried look on her face. With her outstretched arms, she says, “Come back daddy.”
I look at her, and I can barely force the two simple words out of my mouth. With struggle, I painfully force out, “I promise.” Then suddenly, she disappears. I frantically look for her, but she’s gone.
Soon, it feels like there’s hope again. I can’t die. Not when I had promised my daughter that I would come back.
Suddenly, I try to focus onto something with my blurry vision. That something gets closer to me. I look at his uniform, and a red cross is taped onto his shirt.
“You’re going to be fine,” says the gentleman with the red cross on his shirt. “You’re in good hands…I promise.”