by Ed Oram
As we remember those who have served our country in wartime and in peacekeeping, I will relate the remembrances of a 19 year old soldier from Muskoka as a front line soldier in Korea during hostilities.
I slept on the ground in a bunker with all my clothes and equipment on, ready for battle, propped up with my backpack for a pillow. I was awakened at midnight for my four hour shift on guard duty in the slit trench outside our bunker. It was raining so I put on my rainproof poncho, picked up my rifle, bayonet, grenades and ammo, and traded places with my buddy. The bottom of the trench was muddy, the steady downpour made the darkness more ominous. Crouching with my bottom resting against the back of the trench, my rifle and bayonet at the ready, my eyes strained to pick out any movement and my ears alert to hear any odd sounds. "What was that?" Was that my imagination? I stare intently into the darkness trying to see down the side of the hill, something seems to move, but I know that the mind plays tricks. There it moved again. My heart starts to race, my chest is pounding, my skin tingles, my finger closes on the trigger. Hold your breath, he may hear you. Breath carefully letting out only a little at a time. Iím scaredÖ
This continues for four hours. My buddy takes over at four a.m.. I try to sleep but being so tense for so long, sleep doesnít come. During one of my guard duties they did come, by the thousands, we were surrounded, they overran our hill, we brought down artillery fire onto our own positions. We fought them off, sometimes in hand to hand combat. Many of my buddies were killed. I will remember them, I try to forget, but I canít. Talking about it helps; even after fifty years, I still have misty eyes and a tightening of the throat.
In the morning we remember that it is November the 11th, but the guard duty continues, the rain continues. Will it ever end? A muddy Memorial Day with no chance to share my thoughts. Time to clean my rifle and machine gun. Ensure that my platoon has its supply of mortars, grenades and ammo. I grabbed a can of corned beef hash and some hardtack (biscuits) for breakfast. It's awful, but it keeps us going. I do take time to remember those who died there, my buddies who I trained with, sang with and stood shoulder to shoulder with. I think of the land mines, the bullets, the artillery and strafing that took them.
I also thought will I live? I thought of home, will I see my parents again?
Men donít cry, so I blew my nose to hide the wiping of my tears.
Ed Oram served with all three battalions of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry and is a veteran of the Kapyong battle. Following his military service in Korea and Germany he returned to the CPR for a 40-year career. He has travelled extensively upgrading transportation systems in developing nations. He and his wife, Eleanore live in Barrie, Ontario.