Most of the nearly two million Americans who served in the Korean War came home, but close to 44,000 did not. Curtis Chapman, from my original Iowa hometown did not, nor did Dan Schoonover and Herbert A. Littleton, both from Idaho where I now live (Read their Medal of Honor stories at http://bit.ly/11oFT0a). I write about them not just to honor them but also to remind readers that wars―past and present―are not just abstract happenings that occur in distant lands. By the deaths and woundings of our young men and women, wars’ tragedies and losses touch all of us. Their lives and deaths are a part of us. For they were and are, our brothers, sisters, friends, neighbors and sons and daughters.
Curtis, as we called him in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was age 22 when he was killed on an outpost called Bunker Hill on the night of October 7, 1952. The closest friend of my youth, he became a Navy Corpsman assigned to the US Marines, and was mortally hit by shrapnel while tending the wounded and dying men of his Marine company in battle against the Chinese—doing so in spite of his own serious wounds. When Curtis and I were 16, we worked together as a team on a railroad section gang, and as we liked to think at the time, “we became men together.” Fifty-nine years later, Curtis was one of three persons to whom I dedicated my memoir of the Korean War. In it I wrote: “During our happy summer of work and play, little did we know that only a few years later a far-off land called Korea would loom so large in our lives—for him the last place he would walk on earth, for me a time and place of great learning and lasting sorrow. To this day, I think of Curtis and his family almost daily.”