Dr. Bill Atwood

The greatest of these is love

If you were born on June 25, 1950 you would be 65 years old today. You would be eligible for Social Security and people would be congratulating you on reaching that milestone. On your actual birthday, people would have been congratulating your parents on your birth and then the conversation would have evolved into a discussion of the news event of that day. The United States had entered into a “police action” in Korea and American troops were being sent back into harm’s way just five years after the troops had come home from defeating the Nazis, Fascists, and the Japanese Empire.

It has become known as “The Forgotten War” because our nation simply seemed to ignore it from the start. Even with the books written about the war, even with a movie and television series, albeit irreverent, and even with the fact that we are still dealing with Korea 65 years later, many just ignore the sacrifice made by those brave veterans who fought and died there. Shame on us.

Gunnery Sergeant Bill Atwood home from WWII in the Pacific after fighting the war from early in 1942 until V-J Day had enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserves while starting a family and trying to continue his education. He was called into active duty and spent a year in that frozen part of the world. He was at the Chosin Reservoir when the Marine’s were cut off and surrounded by the enemy.

From Nov. 27 until Dec. 13, 1950, the battle was waged in freezing temperatures. My father’s feet were scarred from the frostbite the rest of his life as his skin had frozen to his socks and when the socks were removed the skin went with them. Lieutenant General “Chesty” Puller, along with Major General Ed Almond and his troops survived and eventually broke out. Henceforth those veterans of that campaign became known as “The Chosin Few” or “The Frozen Chosin.”

Corporal Earl Midkiff, a young man from Mt. Airy, North Carolina was in a foxhole when a hand grenade was tossed in by the enemy. Earl grabbed it, leaped out of the foxhole and while in the process of saving the five guys in that area, the grenade exploded and took Earl’s right hand and two fingers from his left. Earl was awarded the Navy Cross for his bravery that November day. His dream of becoming a doctor ended that very moment.

There are countless others who sacrificed but we should never forget or discount the bravery that was shown by those men and women who fought for freedom in that region. The people of South Korea remember them fondly while the government of North Korea doesn’t.

Normally my column centers around one topic, but the event of this past week in South Carolina cannot be ignored and should never be forgotten. When the Korean veterans were fighting for freedom for other people in another country far from their homes, they did so to secure a life of liberty for the people of Korea. Those veterans would have included the freedom to worship as a cause worth fighting for and even worth dying for.

The nine wonderful people gunned down during Bible study at Emmanuel AME Church were enjoying the sacred right to worship and a man filled with evil decided to display his racist, bigoted, and hateful rage with an act that shocked us all. More shocking to many is the response from the families of those gunned down. They have shown Christian love and forgiveness to the evil monster that had killed their loved ones. Their pastor had taught them well, and they showed the world a fine example of God’s grace. Yes, they still hurt and will always carry the horrible event in their daily lives. However, their act of love and charity to the killer will free them from a rage that would live within them. It also honors the memory and faith of their loved ones who would have wanted such words and actions to be shared.

Scripture says, “Greater love hath no man than this that he would lay down his life for his friends.” And another chapter in the Bible states, Three things will last forever - faith, hope, and love - and the greatest of these is love.”

The Korean veterans displayed an example of one verse and the families in Charleston showed us the other.

It has been said that, “Those who do not heed history are condemned to repeat it.” We can learn so much from studying the examples of people who do the right things at the right time.

May God bless them for their actions.

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