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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Drip (04/25/13)

TITLE: Memories of Grandpa
By Jennifer Martin


On December 5, 1950, my grandfather was taken prisoner of war. August 25 of this year marks the 60th anniversary of his release. I was quite young when my father told me this about my grandfather. Perhaps it was his way of explaining why my beloved grandpa was so strange and aloof. I spent much of my growing years trying to get him to offer tiny nuggets of information about his life experiences. But he only talked about his time as a POW on a handful of occasions, usually when he was on just the right mix of medications to be truly lucid. This was long before the veteran hospitals defined Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and discovered better ways of treating it.

Whatever it was that had turned my grandfather into this heavily medicated, angry man, I always felt a strong compassion toward him, and a burning desire to discover more about his past. He passed away not long after I graduated from Navy boot camp, about 10 years ago now. Since his death, I have found his valor award information and have determined that he was most likely taken captive during the Chinese invasion of Pyongyang. I can find little else on the specifics. Mostly, I just cling to the few personal experiences he shared with me.

I can still picture him in his recliner, holding one of the dachshunds he loved so much that he would fatten them to the point of being unable to even waddle on their short legs. His large hand would paw absentmindedly at the auburn fur as he wandered back to a place and time that had burned itself into his conscious. He would vividly (by vividly, I mean in language that was not suitable for my young ears) recount how the Chinese soldiers came running by the droves, and overtook the American tanks by sheer number. There were just too doggone many of them for the tanks to fight off.

He was taken to a POW camp, where he subsisted on a basic diet of rice for more than two and a half years. By the time he was released, his 6’1 frame weighed in at only 94 pounds. Aside from the near starvation and some attempts at indoctrination, he insisted that very little torture of the prisoners occurred. Except for one form of torture. I can still hear his raspy Illinois accent recounting how prisoners were subjected to water torture. He would describe how a prisoner would be restrained on his back and tiny drops of water would be dripped onto his forehead at varying intervals.

Drip, drip…drip…drip.

Eventually, this would drive the captive into a frantic state. My grandfather never did say whether he endured the torture himself or merely witnessed it. Whenever he talked about it, his eyes would grow distant and his jaw would set firmly with long-harbored rage.

I can’t even begin to imagine what prisoners of war endure. Soldiers who have seen combat, and certainly those who have experienced captivity, understand the limits of the human psyche as no academic ever will. To this day, I have no idea whether or not my grandfather accepted the gift of salvation before he died. But I pray he did. I pray that his soul is finally at peace.

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Member Comments
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Virgil Youngblood 05/03/13
Thanks for sharing such a personal memory. Your grandfather was a hero, deserving of great honor and our highest respect. Your well written memoir is appreciated.
Joanne Sher 05/08/13
Very powerful and well-written piece. Excellent.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 05/09/13
Wow this is a powerful piece. I can't even begin to imagine. What a wonderful reminder of how blessed we are and thank you for this story as it approaches Memorial Day to remind us to thank those serving their country and the sacrifices they and their families make to keep me safe. Congratulations on placing 30 overall!