Way To Thank A Veteran
By JOHN M. DERBY
May 11, 2017
we were through with our breakfast at the Hot Rod Café,
we asked the waitress for the bill, and she said, “There
It happened to be a day when we were wearing our Korean
Veteran cap, and the waitress continued, “That man,
who just left, paid for your breakfast.”
We were a little shocked because it was such an unexpected
Looking back to the time when we returned from Korea, we
hardly mentioned that we had served.
No one seemed to care, and to be honest, we were not sure
what we were doing there.
We had not wanted to go in the first place. Our graduating
class at medic training had all gone to Germany except the
top 10 percent, and we were kept for additional training.
We were so sure we would be sent to Germany, that we got
married to a girlfriend, thinking we could spend the time
in Germany together.
The rest of the class were shipped to Korea on a huge troop
carrier. It was a terrible trip and everyone got sick.
The sight of Korea was even more sickening. The country
had been demolished, and the people looked beaten down.
The reason we became medics was because we did not want
to shoot anyone who we didn’t even know. However,
when we arrived for work in the medical battalion, we hated
the blood and guts even more. We prayed for a reassignment.
It came in a strange way.
There was a bulletin on the board asking for anyone who
had been trained to write and take pictures. The position
which was open was that of an Information Officer (Mind
you, we were not an officer and didn’t want to be
one because that would have meant a minimum of 4 years enlistment).
We applied and got the job anyway, and were happy. Then
three months later our immediate supervisor got transferred,
and we got his job as a military correspondent writing for
the Stars and Stripes and the Army Times.
We were moved to division headquarters and had a jeep at
our disposal. It was the best of jobs and that is really
how we became a journalist.
To make a long story short, we returned and were hired by
the Orville Mercury, and then the Merced Sun Star, but having
been in the military seemed unimportant. In those days,
having served in the Korean was not considered war, but
only a conflict, and we were not eligible for the G.I Bill.
Only later did Congress change its mind. Literally thousands
of men died in that “Conflict.”
We rarely mentioned it for years, and then something happened
when we returned to Korea last year. It was eye opening.
Who would have thought that this country after being reduced
to rubble would become a lantern of democracy in the Far
After that trip, we started wearing the Korean Veterans
cap, and whenever we have, we get surprised by the remarks
of people around us.
They stop and say: “Thank you for your service.”
Or in this one case, they bought us breakfast.
It’s not that we can’t afford it, it’s
the thought that matters.