Sunday, April 29, 2007

"and the greatest of these is love"

Twin Towers Cross

My Uncle Leon Ferguson, who died about five years ago, fought in the Korean War. So did my scoutmaster, Mr. Holland, who still attends meetings of the "Chosin Few," unless he too has passed on. Mr. Holland spoke to me about the Americans having to remove their dead during retreat by using dynamite to blast them out of the frozen ground.

Once, after my scoutmaster had told me something about his experience in the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, I asked my Uncle Leon if he had fought there. He looked at me for a moment, then acknowledged that he had, and he spoke briefly about how horrible the war was and that a lot of young friends of his had lost their lives because of poor decisions by their commanding officers. But he didn't specify.

Later, my grandmother told me that what Leon had said to me that day was the most that he'd ever said to anyone about the war. His wife, my maternal aunt, told us that when Leon had returned from the war, he had told her never to ask him about it because he simply didn't want to talk about it.

For years, he practiced conservation by taking his baths in merely an inch or two of water because he hated to waste a resource that had been so hard to get during battle.

My 8th-grade science teacher, Coy Ferguson, told about getting so thirsty during a campaign in the Korean War that he finally forced himself to drink water from a spot in a creek downstream from where a dead mule lay rotting in the water. No other spot safe from sniper fire was available to him.

That war left a traumatic impression upon everyone, it seems, but those who tell the stories are the ones who survived, and such stories always leave us with the belief that we could also survive.

I'm currently reading Jacques Sandulescu's Donbas: A True Story of an Escape Across Russia, which tells the story of how he survived and escaped one of Stalin's slave-labor camps even though he was no more than 18 or 19.

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I'd ordered the book, so anyone interested can read more about it there and also find some links to excerpts from that book and other fascinating tales from Sandulescu's life.

He's still alive and lovingly cared for by his wife, Annie Gottlieb, who calls herself "Amba" online and maintains her own blog -- in which, Sandulescu looms large even in the late winter of his long life.

Yesterday, I read Amba's words about those who do not survive -- and that, ultimately, includes all of us. She had just watched United 93 and was still moved from the experience. She notes several things about it that she liked, such as "the modesty of the movie[, which] didn't mythologize the characters," the "casual chatter of all the passengers and crew at the beginning[, which] was anchored by the unawakened assumption that their lives would go on," the anonymity of "Let's roll," which "was made a throwaway line," but most of all, I gather, she liked this:
I liked that while the terrorists' mantra was all Allah all the time, the passengers' was "I love you." That says so much more than I even want to comment on. That was the prayer we sent to the skies on September 11, and I say it speaks well of us.
Note how subtly Amba weaves in an allusion to the Muslim Shahadah in her words "all Allah all," which recall "la ilaha illa Allah" (لا إله إلاَّ الله, "no god but Allah"). While the terrorists were praying for their own souls and the courage to kill others by killing themselves, we were offering up prayers of love for those who were going to die.

I think of the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, especially verse 13:
νυνι δε μενει πιστις ελπις αγαπη τα τρια ταυτα μειζων δε τουτων η αγαπη (Greek New Testament, Westcott-Hort edition of 1881)

But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love. (American Standard Version)
The terrorists may have had their faith and their hope, but on that day, we had love.

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At 9:35 AM, Blogger Conservative in Virginia said...

Your post made me wonder about Chosin and Korean War vets. I did some reading on the net, but it's just so heartbreaking.

I was hoping to find a site collecting Korean War vet stories, so I could suggest my Dad add his recollections. (He's got a computer, but couldn't handle anything complex, so it would need a super easy user interface.) I recall he has lots of photos. Would be great to get him connected to buddies and sharing photos and stories and all. But I might have to search when he's visiting here, since I don't understand military structure and it seems sites organize things by the unit in which you served.

It's a project always put off for "some day" but I hope that day comes before it's too late.

At 9:54 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Maybe you should just write to one of the organizations yourself and see if they know what to do.

Those Vets are getting old, so there's not much time left, as you have noted.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I do all my medical/health care stuff with the VA. I'll get in touch with my Vet Rep if you'd like. There should be one in your county seat if you're in the States. The representative will be able to get that sort of info because they are in daily contact with vets of every conflict.

Usually Veteran's Reps are more than glad to assist in any way. They are usually not "officially" tied in with the system but instead are usually a retired guy. But those people are the first line when it comes to the sort of thing you're wondering.

And they have the capacity and the time to "give a hoot". If you ask me to get in touch, I'd need maybe a week. Would you happen to know his branch, any unit numbers? If its possible for you to communicate with Jerrery directly we can relay off this site. I would like to help if I can. Or, welll if I can be of any help let me know. Jeff, I hope you don't mind.


At 2:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Two years before Uncle Leon died he talked to me about the horrors of the Korean War. I don't know why he opened up to me, but to this day I can't think about it without tears in my eyes. Uncle Leon was an amazing man who mellowed the last twenty years of his life. I miss him still.


At 5:47 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, I'll see if I can alert CIV to your post.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:48 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Tim. You must have learned a lot more than I did. I imagine that he might have opened up to you because you spent some time in the military, too.

Sometime, I'd like to hear what he said.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:13 AM, Blogger L.R.Young said...

Our prayers tell the condition of our heart. Our actions are the fruit of our beleifs. 9/11 is a snapshot of who we were that day. Every day is an opertunity to be ourselfs. May God have his way in each of our lifes.
Jeff, do you remember the Superman cape in Kansas City?

R/S, L.R.Young

At 7:01 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yeah, I certainly do recall the cape. But I wasn't trying to fly. Really, I simply fell headlong from the branch on that tree. I'd never climbed a tree before, and I didn't know enough, at five years old, to hold onto a branch.

I'm lucky to be alive.

Maybe I should blog on that experience...

Thanks for the comment. I hope that we'll have the chance to see each other again at a family reunion sometime.

Jeffery Hodges

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