My Uncle Bobby, Staff Sgt Robert Deeter, was an aircraft radio operator and was stationed at Brady Air Base in Kyushu, Japan during the Korean War. On October 16th, 1952 he was about three weeks shy of his 22nd birthday when his plane went down in the Sea of Japan. All 35 crew members were lost. His body was never recovered. The grief still haunts our family to this day; my Aunt Doris, Uncle Bobby's only remaining sibling, still sobs when she talks of him. My mother, now gone, grieved his loss all her life.
Several years ago my daughter Amanda made a trip to Washington DC where she visited the Korean War Memorial. Her interest in the war later took her to an online Korean War memorial site where she searched her uncle's name and was stunned to find the following remembrance about him:
"SSGT was a friend of mine. We both was stationed at Brady Field, Japan in 1952. Deeter was my Instructor in Radio School at Keesler AFB, Miss. I shipped out to Brady ahead of him and some months later he came over and I became his Instructor. I will never forget Deeter, because he and I swapped flights that night so I could take a flight to Tokyo with another friend of of mine. When I got back to Base the next day I saw he was missing in action. Therefore because of the Circumstances I will never forget MY FRIEND." SGT Ernest (Ernie) NeSmith
My aunt got in touch with Ernie. It was emotional for both of them. He broke down and told her the story he had carried heavy in his heart all these years. My Uncle Bobby was scheduled to fly to Tokyo for much anticipated R & R. Ernie begged him to swap with him so he could go on the flight to Tokyo with one of his best pals. After a lot of cajoling, he said Uncle Bobby finally agreed, saying he guessed he had plenty of time for trips to Tokyo. The last decision my Uncle Bobby made was one that came from a generous heart. My aunt consoled Ernie, told him it was meant to be, told him to let it go. After almost 60 years he still needed to hear this. So poignant, the undeserved sorrow of a beautiful human heart.
They were so achingly young. Through no fault of their own, circumstances brought one to an early death and another to live on with anguished memories. There are millions of stories like this one. All because people cannot get along. All because what we do on this planet when we have escalating disagreements is go to war. Why don't more of us deeply understand the futility of this tragic habitual reaction to discord?