“In the last days of November 1950, twelve-thousand men of the First Marine Division, along with a few thousand Army soldiers, found themselves trapped high in the mountains of North Korea, near a reservoir called Chosin. Their leaders had been caught off guard by the sudden entrance of the People’s Republic of China into the five-month old Korean War. The Americans were surrounded, outnumbered, and at risk of annihilation. The two-week battle that followed is among the most momentous in U.S. history. It helped set the course of American foreign policy in the Cold War and beyond. And it remains one of the most renowned in Marine Corps annals.” — PBS
At the Battle of the Chosin, my late father didn’t know Rick Seward or Bob Robinson, fellow Marines of the First Division who were there. They met decades later in Coeur d’Alene and were among the founders of Pappy Boyington Detachment 966 of the Marine Corps League and members of the Chosin Few, a last man organization.
On Saturday as I joined the procession to the cemetery following Rick’s funeral service a light snow was falling. Already in place were a large contingent of red-jacketed Marine Corps League standing in formation, to one side were several active duty Marines in their dress uniforms who would serve as pallbearers. A Marine bugler was off in the distance. There standing alone, in a blue jacket I recognized as the one worn only by members of the Chosin Few, was Bob Robinson.
Big flakes of snow began to fall and I thought of the frozen hell Bob, Rick and Dad had survived in Korea. Bob, now in his late 80s and the last man remaining of the trio, stood at attention and saluted as Rick’s flag-draped casket was carried to the gravesite.
That scene of Vietnam and Gulf War Marine veterans, young active duty Marines and an aging Marine veteran of the Korean War all paying solemn respects to one of their own was the visual definition of esprit de corps, what Marines call the intangible spirit that lifts men above themselves for the good of the group.
We could use a bit more esprit de corps in this world.
My father was a 21-year-old Marine, assigned to driving a supply truck at the Battle of the Chosin with the First Marine Division. He survived. It was not until I was in my forties and he was in his sixties that he opened up about his experience. It was harrowing to hear but gave me great insight into how in that most unforgiving foreign land my father’s lifelong patriotism and gratitude took hold. One of the stories he shared of his experiences at the Battle of the Chosin was about the 90,000 North Korean civilians who walked out with the Marines. The temperatures were at least 50 below zero and most were not dressed for that weather. But they walked ... the elderly, the young, mothers with infants in arms. “They voted for freedom with their feet,” my father told me.
With election day just past and Veterans Day this weekend, my appreciation to all who voted, all who stepped up to put their name on a ballot and to the veterans who through the generations have served to make and keep our country the land of the free.
Another group of citizens who’ve been in my thoughts the past few months ... the jury who served in the trial of the murderer of Coeur d’Alene Police Officer Greg Moore. It’s a civic duty that most people shy away from and this group of jurors made no small amount of sacrifice to ensure justice was served. No part of the weeks of testimony was easy, nor will viewing the evidence of that horrific and senseless crime soon leave their minds. Sentencing someone to the death penalty will hopefully be the most difficult thing any of them will ever do.
But in the end, justice for the family, friends and colleagues of Officer Moore and for our community was indeed served.
The Idaho School Board Association is celebrating 75 years with their annual conference at the Coeur d’Alene Resort this week. School board members, superintendents and clerks of the board are attending. Of particular interest to me is the Personnel Clerk for Blackfoot School District 55 aka my little sister, Ronna Rankin Park. I love when her career brings her north for a visit!
Things to do highlights ... Thursday through Sunday, Lake City Playhouse presents Wait Until Dark. lakecityplayhouse.org. Also on stage for the final weekend (Friday-Sunday) is Christian Youth Theatre’s production of Annie at the Kroc. cytni.org.
Saturday, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., the Kootenai County Veteran’s Council presents the inaugural Kootenai County Veteran’s Day Celebration at American Legion Post 143 in Post Falls. Over 21, live music and hors d’oeuvres, $25.
Sunday, Coeur d’Alene Makers Market at the Coeur d’Alene Resort, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Every vendor is local. Free admission.
From 2-4 p.m. the public is invited by Manuel Schneidmiller American Legion Post 154 to attend the Annual Veterans Recognition Ceremony at Lakeland High School. Free.
Happy birthday today to Keith Allen, Marti Rosenstiel, Joanne Wilhelm, Jens Jensen, Jeff Tucker and Aaron Birdsall. Tomorrow Gratia Griffith, Austin Gardner, Todd Tondee, Ben Rae, Lori Sherfey, Janine Avila, Gary Ulvan, Matt Lyman and Dennis Hall will celebrate. November 10 birthdays are celebrated by Jeanne Norton, Beverly Pogue, Kathleen Tillman, Bret Bowers, Marlow Hendricks, Doug Eastwood, John Evans, Diane Horton, Dale Broadsword and the US Marine Corps, celebrating 242 years of honor and tradition. Semper Fi. 11/11 birthdays for Ruth Pratt (70!), Ellen Jaeger, Graydon Stanley, Tim Mitchell, Eugene Boyle, Aaron Roberts, Amy Colbert, Ruth Morrow (70!), Kim Malar-Currie, Kelli Fahy, Heather Bryant, Ron Lahr, Keith Boe and Emilia Ovstedal. On Sunday Faith Mitchell, Polly Johnson, Marshall Mend, Dana Ryan, Greg Gervais, Robert Lantz, Antigone Twidt, Brenda Murphy and Amanda Behringer put on their party hats. Matt Backs (40!), Cheyenne Tate, Desiree Janke, Timarie Lindquist, Tonya Yost, Margaret Ogram, Jennifer Currie and Jeannette Laster will be feeling lucky on their 13th of November birthdays. Mamie Johnson, Jane Hansen, Jill Satterly, Tim Curry, Ann Jaworski and Robert Chatters have birthdays on Tuesday.
Kerri Rankin Thoreson is a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and the former publisher of the Post Falls Tribune. Main Street appears every Wednesday in The Press and Kerri can be contacted on Facebook or via email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @kerrithoreson.