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Story ID:1299
Written by:Frederick William Wickert (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Story
Location:K-9 Air Base None South Korea
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There are two different Christmases in my life that really stick out in my memories. The first one was when I was stationed in Korea. It was Christmas of 1954. We were an Air Police Squadron at K-9 Air Base.

The barracks were built with thick baked mud walls and wood roofs, covered with sand bags. The first two thirds of each unit was one large open area for the junior ranked enlisted men. The rear third was for the noncommissioned officers. Each room was equipped with a stove that resembled a beer keg. Fuel was piped into the stove by copper tubing from wing tanks parked outside the wall. The stoves frequently became fouled and did not work, or they exploded and had to be rebuilt.

The room was equipped with folding steel cots for the men, and each man had a footlocker to keep his things in. Each room had a Korean houseboy. We each chipped in so much a month for his pay for which he in turn kept the beds made, kept the room clean, kept our boots clean and polished and did our laundry. Wet laundry was hung on wires in the barracks.

When Christmas eve came, those of us who were not on duty were going to a town called Hyundae about eight miles away, to celebrate in the dance halls. There were some who stayed on the base and went to a dance at the service club. A truckload or two of girls were brought to the base for the dance.

All of the men off duty in my barracks except for one, was going to Hyundae. We each had a girlfriend there. The one man, who was not going, had no girlfriends and he had no desire to go to the service club. He cared nothing about dancing.

The young man was a Canadian who, for adventure, had joined the American Air Force. He was very homesick and he began to feel sorry for himself. He began crying about it as we were getting ready to leave for the town. We tried to convince him to come along, while he insisted we stay there and keep him company.

None of us were willing to stay behind to keep the troubled young man company. He in turn kept threatening to kill himself if we left him there. He swore to take his life if we didnít stay with him. None of us of course, was willing to give up our evening to do that.

We didnít believe he was going to harm himself, but he was so carried away and making such a big fool of himself that we were not really sure he could be safely left behind. I had enough. I told him to get dressed to go with us. He refused. I told him again and he still refused.

Not wanting to take the chance the man might hurt himself, and not wanting to ruin the evening for the rest of us, I walked over to him, and before he knew what I was doing, I knocked him down onto his cot and handcuffed him to the side rails. I told him we were leaving and he was not going to kill himself. I told him to have a good sleep because he wasnít going to do anything else.

The man called all of us, and me in particular, every nasty word he could think of, but we ignored him and left the barracks.

There was a strict curfew in those days, and everyone was required to be back on the base by that time. The town was off limits by 10:00 P.M. We all returned to the barracks and the man had gone

to sleep. When we came back inside, I removed the handcuffs from him. He was very angry with me and made all sorts of dire threats about what he was going to do to me to get even.

On Christmas morning when we all awoke to go on duty, the man walked over to me and apologized for his behavior of the night before. He then thanked me and said he was seriously planning to commit suicide. If I had not handcuffed him to his bed, he might very well have killed himself. He had time to do a lot of thinking, and decided that killing himself was not the right thing to do. He assured me he understood how wrong suicide was and that he was over such thinking.

The subject was never brought up again by anyone as far as I know, and he finished his tour of duty in Korea without further incident, going home safely.

I thought it wasnít a bad Christmas at all, all things considered.


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