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Friday, May 24, 2013
Every morning, Bob VandeLinde thanks God for hot water and soap. It is a n after-effect of his service during the Korean War and of the research he has done since for the three books he has written.
VandeLinde recalled a South Korean woman who told of being held in a prison camp. Her captors disciplined her by pulling out her finger nails when she was 4 years old. U.S. paratroopers rescued her and 2,200 others. In a letter of appreciation, VandeLinde said she thanked her rescuers for her life, as well as for popcorn, soap and warm water.
VandeLinde thanks God for these things, because he knows many people in the world do not have the luxury of even a simple bar of soap and hot water.
On June 25, 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea. VandeLinde was serving with Company K 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment (Airborne). The Hamlin, W .Va., native did not know anything about Korea before entering the U.S. Army as a teenager, but he quickly learned Korea was indeed a world away from his hometown.
“When I went to Korea, kids were in the streets hungry, dirty and orphaned,” recalled VandeLinde. “Mama-sans were heading south carrying everything they had on their heads. Papa-sans were carrying A-frames on their backs.”
VandeLinde, who lives in Moneta with Jean, his wife of 61 years , was wounded several times in battle and earned a Purple Heart. On July 22, 2011, the world learned about some of his harrowing experiences about 60 years after they happened when VandeLinde was awarded the Silver Star.
The official citation recognized VandeLinde’s bravery in what seemed like a hopeless situation . Near Sukchon, Korea, VandeLinde was leading an eight-man outpost, protecting his company from a surprise attack. S gt. 1st Class VandeLinde was confronted with enemy forces more than 200 strong when he moved from protected cover to silence a wounded enemy soldier. He faced small arms fire and grenade explosions while disrupting the enemy’s attack.
Wounded, he continued fighting and killed the soldier who stabbed him. The enemy forces overran his unit; he escaped to warn his commanding officer of the looming attack.
Looking back , at the age of 84, VandeLinde, like m any veterans, can vividly recall his battle experiences. His books honor his fellow veterans, “A Tribute to Lincoln County Veterans” tells the stories of some of the veterans from his home county in West Virginia, and “Respect: Forgotten Heroes” tells the stories of 35 people , including Jag officers, military nurses and special forces veterans from 12 states . His latest book is “Korea: Why Were We There? What Were We Fighting For?”
“The reason I write these books is to get it off of their chests before it goes to the grave, and it helps the veterans mentally to talk about it,” explained VandeLinde. “It took me four years to get Ed Croom’s story. I understood I had to wait until he was ready.”
Croom, a veteran who lives in Wirtz, had not told his family of his experiences on the battlefields in Korea. Finally, he opened up to VandeLinde.
In Chapter 5 of “Korea,” VandeLinde recounts how Croom earned his Silver Star, Combat Infantry Badge, Bronze Star and Purple Heart as a member of Company C 32nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion and 7th Division, which fought near The Chosin Reservoir.
The book details not only Croom’s experiences, but the stories of other veterans and the stories of Korean civilians who escaped North Korea.
During the writing process, VandeLinde remembered crying at the keyboard at 2 in the morning. But crying is not unusual for VandeLinde. He, like some of the veterans he interviews, said he suffers from PTSD. Sometimes he cries and does not know why. He has gotten through it by praying, crying when he needs to cry and then moving forward, he said.
“Very few people know much about the Korean War. I want people to realize the sacrifices that our service members made to bring freedom to South Korea and stop communism from spreading,” VandeLinde said. “We lost 33,671 killed in action. Breaking it down, that’s 30 killed each day for 1,127 days or 895 a month for 37 months. There were 103,200 wounded, and 7,100 in prison camps; 51 percent of those died in captivity. One of them was my first company commander, and I loved him dearly.”
Nearly 8,000 more are still classified as missing-in-action.
VandeLinde said the U.S. troops carried out their mission in Korea.
“When I went back on a revisit with my son in 1995, we flew into a modern airport,” VandeLinde recalled. “We drove in on a paved four-lane highway, stayed in a 50-story hotel. The people and kids were happy. They wanted our autographs, and the older people wanted to buy our meals. To see that progression, that happiness, that gratitude, made all the sacrifices worth it.”
“Korea: Why Were We There? What Were We Fighting For?” is available for purchase at The Westlake Library, Franklin County’s Main Library in Rocky Mount, the Country Store, Gifts Ahoy, Judi J’s Barber Shop or by contacting VandeLinde at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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