Guest Column: Honored to be the son of a Korean veteran

Monday, May 30 was Memorial Day, and I thought of my father John T. Fryjoff. He fought in Korea and came home to Milwaukee and married my mother. He passed away in the year 2000, and a few years have passed since. When he died, he left a world that was post-Cold War, and there were no other major conflicts on the horizon. This was the truth in his world because he was not alive during the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. I am not sure what his reaction would have been if he were still alive on that tragic morning. I can guess that he would have been angry like every other American.

I do not think he would have supported the war in Iraq, but he would have understood that we where going to war as a result of Sept. 11, 2001. I do not think he would have voted for George W. Bush, either. He would have been a Gore supporter. Then he would have been pissed on election day.

On this somber day, he is the only one in our family who would have understood the feeling of losing fellow friends and solders on the battlefield. He was assigned to a MASH-type unit. Like “Radar” O’Riley on the TV show M.A.S.H., he was a radio operator. I do not know many details about his experience in Korea, but he must have seen a lot of ugliness. Solders coming in from the front. Dead solders and wounded with the most intense wounds he had ever seen. He was a kid from Milwaukee and had no exposure to this kind of environment. WWII was the previous conflict before Korea, and I am sure he met many veterans who came back to Milwaukee and did not talk about their experience in Europe. There must have been many lessons for my father and uncle to learn from men that had seen the worst of humanity as they destroyed Hitler’s Third Reich and restored order in Germany and across Europe.

In 1989 I was living with my father in Rockford. I was a sophomore in high school. I would come home, and he would be sitting in front of the television watching CNN. The news often covered Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Saddam was threatening Kuwait, and he was killing his own people. My father foreshadowed the 1991 Gulf War. He would get mad at the TV and say: “We’ll end up going to war with them (Iraq) yet!” Skip to two years late and we launched Operation Desert Storm in January 1991. He was right, and this war was short but to the point. Then, after he passed and 9/11 occurred, we launched Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003. Again, my father would not have been surprised. I do not think that he would have supported the war simply because my younger brother, Chris, could potentially be drafted if the draft were to be instituted. Who could blame him for not wanting his only able-bodied sun to be dragged off to war?

Memorial Day is a day when we all honor our troops from past and present. I know my father is up there somewhere among his fallen buddies from that Korean conflict so many years ago. I am sure he has been welcoming the casualties of the Iraq War who have found their way to the great VFW in the sky after falling casualty in Iraq and Afghanistan. That is the type of man my father was. In the last years of his life, he helped people do the 12 steps in AA, and in the afterlife, I am sure he is helping all of our fallen solders who had been KIA in the conflict, and they are waiting to see all of their loved ones one day soon.

Honored to be the son of Corporal Jon T. Fryjoff, United States Army, Korea, 1950-1953.

Jon Fryjoff is a former Rockford resident.

From the Aug. 3-9, 2005, issue

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