Kennedy: War stories stir memories of Vietnam

photo Mark Kennedy

My uncle, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, once asked my father, a Korea combat vet, how he managed to rise to the rank of master sergeant during the heat of the conflict.

Dad's answer was short and chilling: Process of elimination.

Like many men who served in combat, my father, who is now deceased, didn't talk much about his war experiences. When asked a question about Korea, he would answer in a respectful but terse way that didn't invite follow-ups.

Sometimes I would eavesdrop on his long-distance phone conversations with his Army buddies who would call him on special occasions or to report a fresh death in the ranks. It amazed me how 30, even 40 years after the war they still seemed bonded, having spent only a few months together as young men on the frozen battlefields of Korea.