Veterans' Voices: Coming Home From Korea
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
On this Veterans Day, we are bringing you stories of homecomings. Now, a soldier who served in what is often called, the forgotten war - Korea. Ray Kalil was an Army platoon leader. He spoke with Blake Farmer of member station WPLN.
BLAKE FARMER: In combat, Ray Kalil commanded an artillery unit and lived by the motto do your duty, dont complain. When the war ended in a stalemate, Kalil spent two weeks aboard a military transport ship, then caught a piston-engine plane from Seattle to Newark. He arrived in Bayonne, New Jersey, just in time to spend Christmas of 1953 with his family.
Mr. RAY KALIL (U.S. Army Veteran, Korean War): They knew I was coming home, but didnt know when. And I thought, well, Ill surprise them, you know. Where we lived, it was the third floor of an apartment house. Of course, I knocked on the door. My sister, Rose, I thought she was going to faint in the process
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Mr. KALIL: My father, he literally ran home, you know.
FARMER: Kalils brother George came rushing home as well. He fought in World War II, when a homecoming was more like a block party.
Mr. KALIL: When they came home, it was not only families, but the entire neighborhood had to come, you know, shake his hand, and whatever. And my father, you know, everyday would mention the one thing and say a prayer, you know, for George. World War II was a total effort by everybody. There was meat rationing, food rationing in general. In Korea, it was the familys concern, but very little else.
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Mr. KALIL: We would get a copy of, you know, Life magazine, Look magazine, home newspaper or something, and they had flights, you know, from New York to Florida for whatever, $99 or something, round trip. New cars coming out. You know, one little column about what was going on in Korea.
FARMER: As a high school math teacher, Kalil says he resented how little mention the Korean War had in history books. But today, hes glad he wasnt allowed to dwell on the war.
Mr. KALIL: There was no one who was willing to listen, only your own family. And I think that was a benefit for most of us because if you got into that mode, you know, how do you get out of it?
FARMER: Now at 80 years old, Kalils sharing his discontent over the recognition of Korean War vets. He calls the lack of national gratitude unforgivable, but at least partly understandable.
For NPR News, Im Blake Farmer in Nashville.
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