Friday, March 21, 2008

Surviving


When Pat Avery and I first met the nine men featured our new book, Sunchon Tunnel Massacre Survivors, we knew right away that they were special human beings. Oh sure, knowing their history made them interesting subjects. Being POWs in Korea almost 60 years ago is bad enough -- but these guys had survived the unthinkable -- a massacre. They'd watched their buddies fall to the ground, screaming for their mommas. They were shot, bayoneted, bludgeoned -- and left for dead with the bodies of their friends.I wondered how the experience had effected them. I wondered how they dealt with their memories.

I knew I'd respect them long before I met them. I already felt sorry for their ordeal. What I didn't expect was to care about them so much.

By the time that Pat and I finished Sunchon Tunnel Massacre Survivors, we knew more about sorrow, anger, hatred, hunger, and torture than we wanted. The aftermath was equally hard to bear. We heard about the times they'd screwed up -- the drinking, the fighting, the women, the difficulty they had in holding down jobs. Their wives told us about their tempers, their troubled sleep, their jumpiness.

Writing their stories was disturbing too. I spent many a night sobbing over the manuscript for the boys these men had been. However, there can be no up if there is no down. Hearing about the ugliness was the price that Pat and I paid to know these incredible people. We learned about grit and determination and spirit and hope. We saw that even after falling again and again -- these guys continued to get up and try. We learned how those qualities kept Ed and Bob and Jim and Walt and Valdor and Bill and Allen and Sherman and George alive in Korea -- and how the same courage kept them reaching for happiness since their return.

This is a picture of me and Sherman Jones. He was the most seriously injured of the survivors during the massacre. He was shot in the face, side, and leg. One foot was partially amputated. Sherman endured many surgeries on his face to give him some quality of life. He's very bright, but obviously there was some degree of brain damage and he gets over excited in exciting situations. He has no emotional brakes. When he's happy, he's happy..when he's mad, he's MAD..when he loves you, he loves completely. We call him the hugger and plan events with 15 minutes of welcoming hugs beforehand and 15 minutes of goodbye hugs at the end. We worry about him, love him and are grateful that he's still with us. He's a blessing...

They all are.

3 comments:

Allyn Evans said...

Like you, I believe that all POWs are.

Thank you for telling us their stories.

Kathe Gogolewski said...

Thank for this beautiful share! You bring Sherman into my own heart with this post. I am grateful to him for the sacrifice he made so many years ago.

Nicole said...

Wow. That's an amazing post. I saw the picture of Sherman and right away I thought of my grandfather, also shot in the face (and elsewhere), because there was a very similar look in his blue eyes. My grandfather never took love for granted and was the most affectionate, loving man I knew growing up. My dad, the VietNam vet was a close second. So I guess what I'm saying is that my heart swelled three times as much when I read this because I know men like this, and I know exactly what you are talking about, and how hard it is to hear the stories, but how amazing it is to see them persevere in the face of that adversity, to continue to, in Thoreau's words, "suck the marrow out of life." Wonderful!

I can't help but wonder (you may have mentioned this in the past blogs?) what led you to write this book. I'd never heard of the massacre (not surprising, I can't think of more than one or two I DO remember hearing of).

Sorry it took so long to get here. Your blog homepage helped me find out that my computer is missing a dll file!

Thanks again for sharing your experience. The book sounds amazing!

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