Korean Veteran- my first interview, his first time telling his story

I asked an Advisor of my organization about a Korean Veteran I could interview for my new show since Korean Armistice day was coming up in two weeks. I was very lucky & honored to be able to witness the signing of the Korean Armistice Day bill for WI. This bill was signed at the same time our Vietnam Veteran’s day bill was signed that we proposed and advocated for.

I never really talked with a Korean Veteran in-depth before. I mostly talked with Vietnam Veterans or Veterans that were in Iraq. However, I always had a real interest in the Korean Veteran. That “police Action” as it was called, was also known as the forgotten war. If Vietnam veterans thought they didn’t receive much room in the “text books”, the Korean Veterans had much less, if anything on their behalf. No, they didn’t receive the negative feedback like some Vietnam Veterans received, but they came back & “just went on” quietly with their lives with little or no acknowledgment of their service. All this came right after the success of World War II in which victory was declared, unlike Korea.  Soldiers didn’t return home to victory parades, and then it wasn’t long after that Vietnam overshadowed the conflict in Korea.

So my advisor (CVSO) called me up with a Veteran he had in mind, Harold Jackson. Turns out the man never told his story before, let alone to a stranger, let alone for a TV interview. When I first called him he appeared hesitant, but as I got to talking with him, he seemed to become more relaxed. However, it wasn’t a done deal yet. So I encouraged him and told him I’ll send him some information about the show, etc. and let him get back to me.  The day he received my letter, he called me back and agreed to come on.

Harold, also known as Joe by his friends and family, entered the Korean War in September 27, 1952. He served in the war for about nine months. Harold was put into the 32nd regiment and 7th Infantry Division.  Soldiers from the 7th Division were the only soldiers who reached the Yalu River in Korea. He was wounded twice while in Korea. Please go to our website Tribute page to learn more about Harold’s experience-  http://veterans.tsio.org/2/post/2011/08/first-post.html

Harold shared more at ease during the interview as time went on. I really wanted to understand the experience of returning home and the transition back into everyday life again. Harold brought up on his own how there were many guys who returned home with struggles and different issues. I asked him if he meant PTSD. He said it was. I was really impressed that a Korean Veteran not only acknowledged this, but was the very one who brought it up. I say this because I’ve met Vietnam Veterans who still allow shame and stigma to be attached to addressing the issue of PTSD. They can acknowledge the soldiers returning from the wars today having PTSD, but tend to shy away from really talking about it within the Vietnam Veteran population.  The thing to remember is that PTSD is NOT something WRONG with you, a weakness. It is a natural reaction to an experienced trauma life event.  I’ve reminded some Vietnam Veterans to be careful, how easy it can be to perpetuate that shame and stigma, keeping others from coming forward for the help they need.  “This” is what has been the very “thing” that was debilitating for different veterans from the Vietnam era. They were not given the permission as encouraged today to “get the help” they need, nor were there the resources as there are today. So I have to say I was quite surprised as well as admire Harold for bringing this up.

Harold also impressed me by his statement about the enemy at the time, “Well them guys were doing what they had to do too”. Wow, the reflection and humility, along with the humanity in that statement.

Harold was awarded two purple hearts and two bronze stars, but never once did I ever feel he tried to say he was a “war hero” and believe me, I have run into that type of thing before.  He shared his experience in complete humility.  This is what I loved best about Harold. I can also tell that he is a character. I think we could become good buds and I would be honored to hang out and talk with him some more.

Happy first official Korean Armistice Day Harold!

July 27th of each year.

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