- Laci Barry Post
A Haunting Letter from a Korean War Soldier for Easter
When I wrote The Final Song, I went back to a book I relied heavily upon while writing Songbird, the first book in The War Song Series. War Letters: An Extraordinary Correspondence from American Wars, edited by Andrew Carroll, is an amazing collection of letters from American soldiers spanning from The Civil War to The Persian Gulf War. Before I began writing The Final Song, which takes place at the onset of The Korean War, I went back and reread the letters from that war specifically. There was one letter that just haunted me, and it directly influenced one chapter of my book.
With Easter almost here, I thought this a good letter to share as it deals with feeling close to God even in the most troubling times. Read this letter, exactly as it was written, from Captain Molton A. Shuler Jr. I believe it will touch your heart just as much!
Helen my Darling –
You are perfection – the paragon of womankind – and you’re my wife – and I adore you! And what’s more, you’re first 6 letters came today! With them came my very life – for my heart was slowly breaking for words of love and tenderness from you, my beloved wife. It’s impossible to describe what your letters meant to me. More than you can possibly imagine I appreciate your love. I know full well you love me – but I can’t see quite why. But I’m not going to quibble. I’m only going to love you more for loving me as you do.
Then there is another reason for my good spirits tonite – as if your letters were not enough. I went to church tonite. Let me paint you a word picture of the “church”. Picture a grassy hillside surrounded by mountains. And a rugged looking – crew hair cut and all – chaplain dressed in fatigues standing by a Government Issue folding podium with a red velvet cover and brass candelabra minus candles, all placed on a couple of ammo boxes.
Then just left of the “pulpit” as you face it you find a battered, 30-odd key, olive drab organ, a GI pianist seated on a 5 gallon gasoline can. And in the background you find blasted Chinese bunkers and old gun emplacements. Then if you look way to your left you’ll see a battery of 6 105 howitzers, their ugly muzzles pointed menacingly toward the North. To the right and on up the valley are bunkers of our company, a couple of tents from which winds a road (one way) behind our “church”.
But what about pews and who occupys them? Well, they are roughly terraced rows with a handful of soldiers, mostly a little dirty and bedraggled, trying to keep from becoming more soiled by sitting on their helmets. You find a rifle loaded with a full clip, or a carbine with a jam-packed magazine beside each man. Over there is a blond and baby faced young man, and beside him is a tough looking hombre with a dark beard and dirty fingernails. And down in the front row are three Korean boys who just sang a couple of hymns in their native tongue, self-conscious to be sure, but, even so, attesting to God’s presence in the hearts of a people torn by war.
And God is in this “chapel” – so near you can almost reach out and touch Him. And the chaplain says, “And men, in the days to come, you must remember the words of Christ when asked where He lived; ‘come and see’”.
Only a couple of times in my life before this evening, have I felt God’s presence in such a way. Perhaps it was the place and the time – I don’t know. Be that as it may, I like the way I felt.
‘Scuse me for trying to be literary. I didn’t mean to – as my efforts no doubt reveal.
Goodnight, Dear, and love our children for me – and miss me, please.
Your man always –
Sadly, Captain Molton A. Shuler Jr. never made it back home to his wife and children. After being hit by shrapnel, he was evacuated to a MASH unit and then to a hospital in Tokyo. He received infected blood plasma and died of hepatitis on August 24, 1952. I believe God was bringing Molt closer to Him before his untimely death.
"Sheffield found his place in the letter and continued reading. “No, it didn’t have pews and hymnals and a usual pulpit. Sorry, Carson, but it was more of a church than anyplace I’ve ever been. A chaplain invited me, so me and a buddy went. They had it up on this grassy hill surrounded by all those mountains I told you about in my last letter. The chaplain wore his fatigues and spoke standing by a folding podium sitting atop a couple of ammo boxes. They tried to make it look more official with a red cover and candelabra, which was missing some candles. Could you even imagine Brother Penny preaching from something like that?”
Sheffield paused for a moment as they each imagined the faraway hill with the strange pulpit."
The Final Song, Chapter 42