Typing Class Saves A Marine’s Life!
Today is the anniversary of the end of the Korean War. I know this because my dad has made a point this week – every day – to remind me. You see, my dad is a Marine. A Korean War veteran. He tells me, that on the truce day, the Marines (my dad among them) lined up on one hill looking across to the Korean Army on the other hill. The landscape was burned and savaged. Neither side was really sure the war was over and everyone stood ready to battle. The tension and ultimate relief must have felt incredibly bipolar and overwhelming.
While my dad doesn’t tell war stories, he has some very strong memories and emotions surrounding a few occasions during his time in Korea and the Corp which he does care to share and I’ll drop one of them here.
Now, first you need to understand my dad is a prolific story teller, and in spite of his proclivity to reel you in with a well-crafted punchline, he will also relay honest-to-God genuine tales of his life’s exploits. Much like Edward Bloom in the movie Big Fish, my dad’s life has been full of imaginative, wild, and true stories which are made all the more endearing by his ability to tell them with a trademark twinkle in his eye.
Now in his 90s with his memory beginning to fail, the stories have become a bit jumbled as the events and chronology are tangled in the fog of an aging mind. He knows he’s having trouble, hates that he struggles, but nevertheless, he continues to regale us with his tales. Having heard most of them over the years, I’m able to weed through the hazy retelling; just enjoying being in his company and giving him the audience he craves while knowing in my heart that some bits don’t quite belong with other bits.
BUT, there are some stories which are indelibly etched in his mind and will probably remain intact until he draws his final breath. This is one of them. And it about brings me (and him) to tears every time he tells it.
When my dad was in high-school, he opted to take typing because the teacher was a very good looking young woman named Miss Quillter – obviously an excellent reason to choose that particular elective. 😉
Fast forward a year or so later, after he had joined the Marine Corp, to a mission in Korea in which his unit was ordered to the front lines. My dad, being a gung-ho Marine, jumped to it, but was collared by a superior officer. “Illsley, not you!” He barked. “I understand you can type.” Much to my dad’s dismay, he was held back so he could type up the battle report.
On one hand, this was a blessing. Practically his entire unit was wiped out on that day. Had my dad gone, he most likely would not have survived. On the other hand, it was one the most gut‐wrenching, tragic times of his war experience.
You see, he was forced to type up the names of the guys he trained with, lived with, and fought beside – brave young men who died or were severely wounded in the ensuing battle. Bitter tears flooded his eyes and streamed down his face with every stroke of the keys, typing “KIA” (killed in action) or “WIA” (wounded in action) alongside the name of a buddy who just hours before he may have shared a tent or a meal with.
My dad is the strongest man I’ve ever known, and to watch the emotions stranglehold him as he retells those events (hundreds of times by now) is simply unbearable. He was, and still is, riddled with survivor’s guilt while also filled with gratitude and full recognition that he was incredibly blessed by life circumstances. He has never been able to quite reconcile the two. (Btw, don’t let anyone tell you that what happened in Korea was a “conflict”. It was a war with all the hell that goes with it!)
Clearly though, he survived, met my mother, had my brother and I, has several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His life has been filled with one thrilling event after another and his legacy is secure!
On a lighter note to wrap this all up, wanna know one nugget I’ve come away with after a lifetime of hearing and contemplating this particular story?
Well, if you ever have to choose a class for an extra credit, you might want to pick the one with the good looking teacher. It just might save your life!