Monthly Archives: September 2014

A Tribute to a Brother


Last week I told you a little about Ken Kirk, a Korean War Veteran and survivor of the Battle of Chosin Reservoir. Ken has also written poetry and has graciously given me permission to share some of his poetry with you. So, without further ado.

~~~~~

7Th Infantry Division, Korea 1950

By Ken Kirk

An eternity in a far off land

I met a man that I called Dan

We grew so close me and this man

From Inchon to the frozen Hungnam

Duty called us both to go

To this forsaken inferno

The years fled by so fleetingly

Ole Dan these eyes once more would see

Time had changed us both it’s true

The youth from both of us had flew

We talked of days we both had seen

From memories dimmed, and not too keen

No enemy there, no frozen night

No blistering heat, no battle sight

With parting tears we said goodbye

My eyes were blurred I saw Dan cry

No closer friend under the sun

Than you ole pal, Harlan Danielson

~~~~~~

There is a bond between those who have served in the military together. But the strongest bonds are between those who have endured battle together … and survived. To say they are family does not quite explain the bond, though Ken does a better job explaining it in his tribute to his friend than I can. Thank you Ken.

Ken is a Korean War veteran. He served in the United States Army, Hq. Co. 1st Bn. 31st Inf. Regt., Korea 1950-1951.

Ken took part in the landing at Inchon and the Battle of Chosen Reservoir.

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A Chosin Survivor


No I did not spell chosen wrong. I am talking about the battle of Chosin Reservoir (27 November to 13 December 1950). I know you probably have not heard of the battle. However, the US Marine Corp ranks this battle as one of the top three battles – one of the “finest hours.” The other three are the battle of Belleau Wood and the battle of Iwo Jima. The battles of Belleau Wood and Iwo Jima were victories, the enemy retreated. The battle of Chosin Reservoir was a retreat for our forces. At the battle of Chosin our forces were out number by any where from 2:1 to 10:1, and they were surrounded.

The battle of Chosin was fought by the 1st Marine Division and the 31st RCT (see below for an explanation of a RCT) of the 7th Infantry Division of the US Army. The American forces were surprised by 20 divisions of the People’s Republic of China. American forces were about thirty thousand men. The Chinese forces were estimated at between 60,000 and 200,000 (20 divisions at full strength), but was probably closer to about 100,000 to 120,000. These troops were not green troops has many proclaim. The Chinese troops had been fighting the Japanese in World War Two and in the Chinese Civil War, although they did not have enough equipment.

This past week I met and interviewed one of the surviving members of the 7th Army 31st regiment. This unit was tasked with protecting the right flank (right side of the end of the battle line) of the 1st Marine Division. They held for four days, until their unit was finally destroyed by overwhelming numbers of Chinese troops. The 31st RCT had 3,800 men assigned to it, though about 800 men of the regiment were not able to reach the main body of the regiment.

After the destruction of the 31st the few survivors walked and crawled across the frozen Chosin Reservoir to reach the marines. They were formed up into a combat unit and with the marines fought their way out. When these men finally escaped and reach the safety of the port of Hungnam, Korea. Before the battle began the 31st RCT had about 3,800 men assigned to it. About 800 tried repeatedly to reach the main body of the regiment, but met the Chinese forces that surrounded the 31st. These men continued to try and reach the main body of the regiment until they could no longer fight. When the 31st reached the port of Hungnam 900 men were left alive. Of those men, only three hundred could fight and most if not all of them were wounded.

In addition to the enemy forces the soldiers and marines had to fight the weather. The temperatures reach -35 degrees F (-34 C) with a wind-chill of -50. Many of the troops suffered severe frostbite. Some of the troops acutually were kept from freezing to death as their own blood froze on their skin and kept them from bleeding to death.

One of the survivors of the 31st RCT was Ken Kirk. I spent over three hours with Ken and he wants to tell me more of his experiences in Korea. It was an honor to meet Ken, and I will do my best to accurately get his story down in writing. The war still haunts Ken, but he believes it was worth it, he believes they won the Korean War. And when you look at the quality of life of the South Koreans and the North Koreans it is hard to argue with him. I personally believe many of the wars fought are wars that should have never been fought. But, Korea was an important war that needed to be fought. The South Korean people to this day are grateful for the sacrifice of the UN troops who defended them. Today, in 2014, school teachers still take their classes to the American military cemeteries to tend the graves of the fallen men who defended them and their country. I think that says it all right there.

Thank you Ken. For myself and my daughter – thank you. You truly are a hero. I wish I could take from you the pain that still haunts you today. It is because of men like you that millions of men, women, and children live in freedom.

~~~~

An RCT is a Regimental Combat Team. It is an infantry regiment that is augmented with smaller units of tank, artillery, combat engineers and other units to enable a regiment to operate by itself as an independent unit.

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Thirteen Years Later – Do YOU Feel Safer?


Do you feel safer? Fifty years ago we started a War on Poverty; we have more poor today than we did fifty years ago. We started a War on Drugs and more people use drugs today than when the war started. The Patriot Act was a bad idea when it was first proposed and it still is today. America’s cities with the most restrictive gun laws, designed to keep guns from the hands of criminals; also lead the nation in gun violence (Chicago, Detroit, Washington D.C. just to name three).

We pass laws which make parents criminals for disciplining their children in an attempt to stop child abuse. We have more child abuse, and more out of control children. Anthony Pasquale’s daughter was brutally murdered for her bicycle and he is going to sue the murder’s parent for raising a murder. But the boy’s mother blames the “system” for not providing him with the help he needs.

We increase the numbers of law enforcement to deal with rising crime. Yet, today an officer pulled over my “Big Sister” to give her a ticket for talking on her cell phone while driving. Yes, that is the reason he told her he pulled her over. When she told him she does not own a cell phone, he replied, “Have a nice day ma’am.” Yet on the same day an officer in West Virginia was “fishing for dollars for city coffers,” an officer in Pennsylvania was gunned down in the line of duty. Another dad who will never live to see his children graduate from school.

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The list goes on. We are always passing laws to end this or curb that, only to see the opposite happen. We have increased security to the point of being ridicules in some areas, and yet it is even easier than ever before to get into this country.

Do you feel safer? I do not. I feel more controlled, more restricted; I feel we live in a time where citizens are encouraged to “spy on” each other. Hey, if you report someone for something you don’t like or that can be twisted into something “suspicious” you can end up on the news and get your “15 minutes of fame” that Andy Warhol talked about.

The NSA has all your texts, cell phone conversations, e-mails, and on-line activities, but they still can’t seem to stop the terrorists. You can’t take a bottle of water on a plane because it might be a bomb, but you can throw it out in that trash can by the TSA desk. Do I feel safer? No, if anything I feel more threatened.

I believe the one bright spot in the War on Terror is that after thirteen years, we finally discovered we are better off supplying support to the Kurds and others who are fighting our enemies. They need weapons, training, supplies, and air support, and we are providing these things. When we put our own men and women in the field of battle we give them Rules of Engagement that more harmful to our own troops than to the enemy; and then we are appalled at the body count of our own troops. Fortunately, the Kurds do not operate under Rules of Engagement that are more dangerous to their own people than to the enemy. The Kurds are fighting for their homeland and their very lives. They will meet ISIL head-on and they will fight to defeat ISIL. The Kurds are not worried about “bad press,” they are worried about their wives and children being safe – they fight to survive.

Are we safer today than on September 11, 2001? I do not believe we are, I do not feel safer. But, there is hope. We did finally learn how to use our military in the War on Terror. Now, if the rest of our government could get their act together, we might actually be safer – in another thirteen years.

This article is a little bit more negative than I usually write, but I think it is time we “step up to the plate.” Just passing laws does not make anyone safer, ask the families of people who had protection orders against the persons who eventually murdered them. I do want to end this morning on a more positive note, so without further adu here are Jeannette Bellesfield’s words on September 11.

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You Are Surrounded, and You Don’t Even Know it.


There are many crazy things going on in the world today. People can’t seem to get along, politicians seem to be oblivious, the latest jobs report says that job growth has stalled; everywhere we turn we hear bad news. Not a day goes by that we are not confronted by arrogant, self-centered, self-serving people. Yet, there are people who still give us inspiration. You just need to look with open eyes and an open heart; you never know where you will see them. Believe me when you do see them and you watch as they put others first, try to do a good job, and quietly go about their work (with an integrity many of us thought was gone) it will put a smile back on your face and encourage you to do the same. I want to tell you about three people I witnessed this week.

The first was an elderly lady (cane and all) who was leaving a store. After she went through the door and it closed behind her, she spotted a young woman with an arm load of boxes. She went back to the door, waited on the young woman, and opened the door for her.

A couple of days after that, I pulled into McDonald’s for a cup of coffee. Across the street was a man sitting on the grass by the sidewalk. He wasn’t bothering anyone; he wasn’t asking for change or anything. He was just sitting there with a bag that looked like it held all his worldly possessions, and his dog. The man who walked out of the McDonald’s ahead of me had two bags and two soft drink cups. I watched as he set one bag and one drink on the roof of a car, and headed across the street with the other bag and drink. When he reached the man sitting on the grass he held it out for him. The man stood up to shake his hand, and said something too him. The clean cut Good Samaritan in his business suit waved him off, shook his hand, and walked back across the street. I waited to tell him I thought that was a nice thing he did. He replied, “Oh it was nothing, just fries a burger and something to wash it down with.” Then he was gone. He may have felt like it was nothing, but who knows when the last time was that man and his dog had a meal.

The third guy works at Home Depot in Gahanna, his name is Mike. I heard a husband and wife who were customers of his say, “Mike thought of everything. My husband went to pick out a grill cover for the grill we just bought, but Mike had even thought of that too. Then he stayed after his shift to finish putting it together for us so we could take it home, even though others could have finished it for him.” But, that’s nothing new for Mike, thinking ahead and going that extra step for his customers is what he does every day, for every person who walks in the store. To Mike, it’s just part of his job; and you would never hear him say anything about it. But, we all know too many people who are clock watchers. Too many people do just what the job requires, and little if any more. Too many people willing to attack other people before they even know the whole story. No Mike it’s not “just part of the job,” and though you may not hear it enough, you are appreciated for your efforts.

Each of these people thought nothing of what they did, but it made such a difference to the people they helped. You pass people like this every day, people who put others first and take the extra step. So, stop listening to the news, ignore the negative people. The elderly woman, the suit guy and Mike, if you look you will see them. They will wave you off and say they were just doing their job or they’ll say it was nothing, but don’t let them do that. It is not just part of their job and it is something to the people they help. Tell them you appreciate what they do, and then emulate them. These people set a good example for all of us. Follow that example, pass it on, do something nice just because you see the need; and we can all make this a better neighborhood to live in.

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