The following essay, written by Dr. John Endicott, President of Woosong University and the SolBridge International School of Business, appeared in the Chung Cheong Today, a Korean newspaper in Daejeon. Dr. Endicott, a veteran of the Air Force, was a 2005 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.
Something of Value To Both Koreans and Americans
I am often asked what I like to read, and do I read much in this era of television, Internet, CVDs and countless other distractions that are part of modern life in Korea or America. When asked, I usually respond that I always have some kind of reading material handy to fill any undesignated time. Usually you will find me reading autobiographies, biographies, histories that focus on the rich heritage of the states in Northeast Asia, economic-fiscal- or business-related materials, but hardly ever do I read a novel. No offense to those who write novels, I just want to spend my time enhancing the data that I can use as I go through the life of a very busy university president.
However, there are exceptions, and today I would like to discuss that exception. Most of my readers know that I teach one course per semester at the University. Many wonder why with all the other things that have to be done by a president that I should be teaching – my answer is why not? This is the most wonderful way to interact with the leaders of the next generation and perhaps leave a little bit of me with them.
The reason I bring teaching up is my colleague who teaches with me and makes sure the students stay on schedule when I’m called away. His name is Jeffrey Miller and he has been in Asia for the last two decades. He has been a reporter for the Korea Times, in fact, for six-years, and has also been a university lecturer. But, most of all he is a student of the Korean War. Recently he put his love of history, his exposure to numerous Korean and American veterans of the Korean War, and his advanced skill as a writer of the English language together and completed and published his first novel called War Remains.
When I saw his book, I was immediately taken by the picture of a soldier on the front cover – it is quite impressive –actually a photo of one of the statues in the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C– but I had no idea the story that he unfolds within the covers would be so powerful. Remember, I am a retired Colonel and have seen some very sad things, but I was an Air Force Officer, so my experience is not the experience of a soldier on the ground. It is here that I realized Jeffrey had done his work. His graphic depiction of the intensity and futility of the battles as the Chinese announce their presence on the battle fields with full-blown human wave tactics had an impact I personally was not prepared for. In fact, as I read the book flying back to Georgia for ten days home leave I could not put it down. The only times I stopped were when I could no longer make out the page. My eyes were full of tears.
Let me give you a slight introduction to the book, but I do not want to ruin it for those who also read it. The story focuses on a soldier, Robert “Bobby” Washkowiak from Illinois, who enters the Army at the time of the Korean War just after he marries the girl of his dreams and ends up struggling to survive the North Koreans, the Chinese and the winter. Which one was worse in 1950 is a good question, but it was the Chinese who finally took his life.
Of course, in the confusion of war, he could only be identified as “Missing In Action.” This is almost worse than being declared dead as the family has no way to put closure to the event. This is the story of his wife adapting to missing and finally receiving the official word that since seven years had passed her husband was now considered dead — Dead, but no remains, no funeral, and no final good-byes.
The rest of the story is one of discovery. Son and grandson find his love letters from Korea and begin to intensify the effort to resolve the terms of his passing. Ultimately, word is received and the cold February night of 1951 in a place called Hoengsong is related through a series of fateful encounters with a surviving military buddy. It is a story that unfortunately is one that over 7,000 families of missing veterans relive on a daily basis, but especially at birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries, and other special events.
Jeffrey Miller has done a wonderful service to those families, and to all of us who intellectually handle the war, but need to understand how the military from two great nations came to know each other and came to bond in a way unknown to most. It is a restatement of the special bond that exists between America and the people of Korea. And it makes the point that this relationship did not end in 1953 but continues, and continues – unlike any other in the world.