Daegu, Korea, 1951: The convoy of trucks was on a narrow dirt road, passing more abandoned rice paddies. I was truly saddened at the sight of the Koreans trudging south. The people were carrying all that they possessed on their backs. Little boys and girls went from person to person like they were looking for their mamas, tears rolling off their faces. I had to hide my tears—my little brother and sister, Gary and Gail, could have been one of them.
The convoy commander called a halt, and soon all the GIs were on the ground opening little boxes of rations. As people saw that we were starting to eat, boys and girls came begging. I handed my half-pint tin of sausage to some wide-eyed little guy. Other GIs were doing the same. None of the GIs ate a thing.
When we got ready to leave, I found a ten-year-old boy sitting in my seat. He said in broken English that he wanted to be our houseboy. I told him we had no house and that he couldn’t ride with us. The driver and I finally got him down after a little struggle, and he went off crying. My heart broke.
In every letter I wrote to my mom and my girlfriend, Ruth, I told them about the orphan children because it was a burden on my heart. Ruth wrote back asking what she could do to help. I told her I didn’t know—only that they needed warm clothes and canned food.
Ruth went to the U.S. Air Force base outside Yuma, Arizona, to see a chaplain and ask for assistance. The chaplain was able to find where I was and discovered an orphanage being set up. Meanwhile, Ruth’s church congregation gathered clothes and canned food.
One afternoon, a jeep pulled up in our rest area, and a captain ordered me into the back. Thinking I was in trouble, I squeezed in beside two very large boxes. After an hour-long drive, we pulled over next to two little huts.
The captain said, “Do you know who Ruth French is?” Dumbstruck, I said, “Yes, sir. Ruth is my girlfriend.”
The captain said, “She sent these boxes. And now you get to give out what’s inside.”
I opened the boxes and saw the clothes. All the boys and girls ran up to me, yelling, laughing, and jumping about. I had tears of happiness rolling down my cheeks as I pulled out sweaters, pants, coats. The little guys showed one another the treasures they had, finding the cans of meat and fruit and things like gloves and socks.
After the clothes were all gone, the captain, a chaplain, said to me, “You did an excellent job. I want to thank you and Ruth from the children and from me.”
I was so happy for the kids, and I was very much in love with a girl whose heart was as big as the world.