My uncle, Sherwood Hulon, grew up on a farm in a tiny town in South Carolina. He was a good looking, fun loving , all American farm boy, an average joe, you might say. At 18 he was drafted into the army and sent to Korea during the ” conflict”. On May 18, 1951 he was captured by the enemy and sent to a prison camp, Chang Song Prison in North Korea. He remained a prisoner for 3 years until the conflict was over and the prisoners of war were released. Amazingly, his pay was even reduced while a prisoner because he was no longer paid “front line” pay. He kept those pay stubs.
I never understood why that event in history was called a conflict and not a war. Young men were taken from their home and families, suffered and died as they do in a war. They were taken prisoners, tortured and starved as in war and their lives are forever changed, just as in war. I am sure war historians can explain the reason it is called a conflict rather than a war, but I don’t buy it.
Sherwood never really talked about his captivity, but after being released he had changed physically, mentally and spiritually. He had lost a lot of weight and all of his teeth, but he came home when many of his friends and fellow prisoners had died of dysentery, starvation and the brutality of his captors.
Once full of youthful vitality and humor, those three years had taken their toll and changed him. Quiet, soft-spoken and full of patience, he was one of my heroes. Uncle Sherwood was one of the kindest, nicest, most peaceful men I have ever known. He took the unimaginable horror of being a prisoner of war and became a warrior of peace. Once home, he got a job with the same company he retired with 60 years later. He married, bought a home and raised two children. He never seemed to take anything for granted and enjoyed every part of his life from taking his wife shopping at Sears Roebuck to drinking a beer on Saturday afternoon. Adored by his family and lifelong friends, he did life right.
While in his 70’s he had heart surgery, a pacemaker and then lung cancer a few years later. He took it all in stride and with a smile. When asked how he was feeling he always said, “Good, good”. To say he wasn’t a complainer was an understatement. He always wore a light blue shirt and grey pants, it was like his uniform for life. Even when his clothes began to hang on him and he lost all of his appetite, he never ever complained about anything. When someone asked if he was afraid of dying, he said no, that his fear of death had expired during his captivity. After he and his group were captured by the Koreans, they had to march miles and miles to their prison. One day, during the march, he leaned down to retie his boots as a bullet zinged by where his head should have been. At that moment, he said he came to the conclusion that he would die when God was ready for him to go and not a minute sooner. He left it in His hands after that.
He was peaceful in death as he had been in life, his beloved family by his side. Was he a war hero? He was to everyone who knew and loved him.
Happy Veterans Day and thank you, Uncle Sherwood, for your service.