REMEMBERING THOSE LEFT BEHIND
I sit here, 50 years after that terrible battle of Jackson Heights, and wonder at the courage, the bravery, and pain that was on that bloody hill. I move on. I can’t remember my Father, but over the years, I believe I have felt him near me. He was not around to teach me how to fish, play baseball, or how to box down the bullies that tormented me in my youth. I carried his dogtags around my neck from the time I was fourteen until I was 35. The burden became too much to bear at that time. I just figured I would never know who he was. I had to cast it aside. The years droned on. I found the Korean War page one day and put a note out there regarding my Father. Things began to happen. I open up my email one night and there is a note from a gentleman who wants to know if I am the son of John D. Porterfield, Jr. who was with his brother-in-law in Korea. He says that something my Father wrote is on his brother’s memorial. Suddenly, I can’t hear anymore. I then remember letters written from brother to brother during that terrible conflict. I find them. The name that is spoken in the email, stares back at me in a letter 50 years old, yellow and tattered. I then get an email from the son of the CO of the other company stuck on that terrible rock on that terrible day. He gives me his Father’s phone number. We leave several voice mails and then we connect. I am not ashamed to say that after speaking with this hero, I hang up and call my brother, Gary, who was six months old when our Father was killed, and was unseen by the man who gave him his name. I made it through about half a sentence and I can’t talk anymore. My wife picks up the phone and makes excuses. I then get an email from Col. Clark , whom I speak with and correspond with to this day. I then talk with the soldier, who with my Father, went out under enemy fire to rescue their comrade, whom they found dying.
They brought his body back and mourned him greatly. I have listened to the voice of this dead hero’s sister, who misses him. He taught her to fish when they were smaller. She has not been whole without him, all these many years. But have any of us, who have lost friends and loved ones during that awful time? I think not. I fly to Little Rock and spend the day with Bud Cronkhite, who shared that bloody ground with those heroes on that day. I think of him often. I have spoken several times with the forward observer, who felt that awful shell whistle over him and strike the command post and make heroes, orphans, and empty men for the rest of our days. In the past week, I have spoken with the radioman who was several feet away when what was a man vanished before his eyes.
I have become aware that all of you that survived that war, somehow feel guilt that you did. I would reply to you….that it was not your time. You were left behind to have families, teach your sons and daughters to play baseball, fish, and knock down bullies. I am glad that you had this gift of life to do those things. I am glad that you had this time to talk to me.
John Scott Porterfield