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 by Frank Shortt
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The Boy and the Yank
        To a lone Korean boy, walking slowly up a war torn hill, hoping for a treat from a “yankee” soldier, hope was a fleeting commodity. All he knew of the “enemy” that had occupied his native land for several hundred years, was that the soldiers were very cruel. Another thing he knew was that the “enemy” did not allow him to speak his native tongue taught to him by his grandmother in secret.
        Tears of relief and joy coursed down the boy’s cheeks as the last of the “enemy” left his land, hopefully, for good. The “enemy” had not destroyed his family, but they had made it almost impossible for his family to lead a normal life. Such is the fate of the conquered. The “enemy” also had warned the local populace of the cruelty of the “yankee” soldiers that would swarm the land, taking anything of value left in sight and enslaving the remainder of the people.
        “Well, what could be worse than not being allowed to speak your native tongue” thought the boy as the “Yankees” began to storm the street.
        On this particular morning the boy, called Jay, nurtured a myriad of thoughts in his young head. “Will these “Yanks” kill me if I try to speak my language in their presence? Will they be hateful and cruel like the “enemy” that was being expelled from the land?”
        All of a sudden, a young, blond soldier came to the boy from the ranks of the “yanks” and offered him chocolate.
        “I am Sgt. Brown.” The soldier told Jay.
        “Can this be a bad man?” The boy thought.
        Jay bowed as he had been taught by his grandmother.
        Sgt. Brown also proffered a pack of chewing gum to the boy by way of letting him know that there were more treats where these came from. The boy had never chewed gum before so the soldier was kind enough to show him how it was done. This young soldier and this boy, called Jay, became the closest of friends. During the evening Sgt. Brown would teach Jay the English language. In return, Jay taught the Sgt. Korean.
        As the days wore on and Jay became more accustomed to the “yanks” he would often do errands for the soldiers, especially his blond friend, Sgt. Brown. Jay had never seen a blond person, and somehow in his youthful mind he thought of his new found friend as the guardian angel that the priests had taught him about. Jay would often shine the shoes of the other “yanks” in the young man’s tent. For this they would always have treats for Jay. He was taught the finer tricks of being a “Yankee” soldier. This would serve Jay well as he grew older and would serve his country as an R.O.K. (Republic of Korea soldier).
        One day, in 1945, Jay walked up the hill toward the camp of the “yanks”, his eyes were met by a devastating sight. All the tents were being torn down and everything stored in large trucks. Jay ran to the first G.I. that he saw asking, “What is happening and why are all the tents being torn down?”
        Just then Jay’s friend came around the corner.
         “We are being deployed to Japan, he explained, the war is over” Unbeknownst to Jay, these men would be part of the post war occupation of the “enemy” country that Jay had been liberated from.
        “Will the “enemy” come back? Jay wanted to know.
        “No, you will never have to worry about this particular enemy again, replied Sgt. Brown. They are a defeated country and will not bother anyone for many years, if ever”.
         Jay could not help believing his friend who had been so kind to him.
        As the men prepared to leave, Jay remembered the many kind things that these men had done for him. They had sent food to his family. They had made sure he had clothing. Although Jay’s feet were very small, Sgt. Brown had made sure he had a G.I. issue pair of brogans. Everything Jay wore had to be altered to fit him, and Sgt. Brown had ways of making this happen. Jay became very sad knowing that his friends were leaving.
        Jay wanted to do something for his friend Sgt. Brown. Jay’s family was very poor and he had nothing of value to give. Jay thought and thought. He did have his rice bowl. He ran quickly down to the village, sneaked into his home and found his rice bowl resting in the little cupboard where his grandmother kept the dishes. Jay put it under his shirt and very quickly made his way back to the “Yank” encampment.
        He approached his friend, Sgt. Brown, with a mixture of timidity and sorrow. For fear of breaking into tears, he could only proffer his rice bowl to his friend.
        “Why, thank you, Jay, was the Sgt’s response to Jay’s fine gesture. I’ll have to see if I can dig up something as a farewell gift for you”.
        Jay’s great sacrifice had touched the heart of his “Yankee” friend.
That night Jay lay abed thinking of what his friend might give him as a parting gift.
        “I hope he will give me lots of chocolate” so thought his young mind. Or maybe he will give me the folding knife I have always admired”.
        Soon, Jay slept the sleep of the well contented and before he knew it, the day dawned. He felt his grandmother shaking him awake and exclaiming in Korean,
        “Get up Jay! The “yanks” are leaving. If you want to see them go, you must get up soon.”
         Jay rushed his morning repast and sped toward the camp.
         “Oh, I hope I am not too late to see my friend, what if he is already on the road? I just have to see him!”
        As Jay rushed to and fro among the jeeps and trucks, he was almost ready to give up and go home. His sorrow overtaking him, he began to cry. Suddenly, he heard a familiar voice behind him,
        “Jay, are you ok, Buddy?”
        Quickly Jay wiped the tears from his eyes, and turning around he saw Sgt. Brown with a brown paper bag extended in his hand. Jay walked slowly up, and the bag was released to his hand.
        “Go ahead and open it,” the Sgt. Instructed. It isn’t much for all the work you’ve done, but it is all I could come up with in such a short time.”
        Jay could hardly get the bag torn open fast enough. Inside was a G.I. eating kit.
        “Great!” Jay thought.
        “Open the kit,” commanded the Sgt.
        As Jay opened the kit, he could hardly believe his eyes. There inside were two large bars of chocolate and under these was the precious folding knife that Jay had wanted ever since he had seen Sgt. Brown using it to open a can of rations. The markings on one side read “US”.
        Jay was not one to show his emotions to everyone. He rushed to Sgt. Brown, hugging him with the greatest bear hug he could muster as he said,
        “I will never forget you, my guardian angel!”
        Their parting ended one of the greatest love stories to come out of the Second World War, the love of a Korean waif for a lonely G.I. far from friends and home.
        The next morning, Jay was awakened by the sound of trucks approaching the camp on the hill. He later learned that a new company was replacing the one that had just left.
        What adventures awaited this Korean boy that had loved a “yank” as his own kin?
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