My father graduated from high school in 1950. He enrolled in community college (first in his family) and before the quarter ended he was drafted.
In a way, he got lucky- a week before he was scheduled to see combat the war ended. He became a clerk and he assigned to a warehouse. At first there were four soliders guarding the compound but as the troops were pulled from Korea my father became the only solider on site. He had a few South Koreans working for the American Army and they were his only companions. Only two spoke English.
My father will tell you about the men he served with in basic training. He will tell you about the cultural differences of the Koreans. He will tell you about how when he got to Seoul there was only one building standing. He will talk about seeing Korea on television now and how different it is, how its economy is thriving. Sometimes he will remember Korean words. He will tell you about the time one of his Korean workers wanted a suit so Dad had my grandmother buy the suit and mail it to Korea. He will tell you that the South Koreans were poor and starving. He will tell you they were so hungry they tried stealing whatever they could from the warehouse. Maybe he will mention that he had live ammunition and had to shoot at people. But that is where his stories end.
My father has nightmares.
I do not know what haunts his dreams. But I know it makes him cry out in horror. I know he's had these same nightmares for as long as I can remember. I know he doesn't want to talk about it and if I ask what he dreamed he will pretend not to remember.
It was a war zone. People lost their homes, families, businesses, friends, their whole world and all the comforting things in it that made it safe and sane. People were cold, hungry, and dying. People do cruel things under duress and hardship.
I don't know what my father saw in Korea. But I know damn good and well he didn't spend every night in the warehouse chit chatting with South Koreans.
War doesn't ever really end. It lives on nightmares and dark thoughts when troops come home.