GIs who are not nastyRemember last fall, when America-bashing was all the rage? Those candle-toting mobs, egged on by Pyeongyang and presidential candidates, were demanding justice for the girls killed in the road accident. Pandering columnists (like us, see our Nov. 18 piece) were gleefully demonizing local GIs.
The more demagogic hacks called the accident murder, and the acquittal a crime against heaven and earth. The moderates suggest that even if Sergeant Walker and Sergeant Nino were innocent, public sentiment required that they be strung up and that President Bush fly over and grovel for forgiveness.
We recall one column, though, in which the writer had the guts to call the Yankee-slamming unreasonable. But he went on to say that the USFK was still remiss because it did no charity work in the Korean community.
Reading that, we smelled barnyard aromas. We wanted to know the truth, so we swallowed hard and did what writers hate to do ― pick up the phone and ask someone who knows.
We called our friend Russ Bassett at the U.S. Army’s public affairs office. He rattled off several names and numbers of what he said were altruistic GIs.
The first we called was Daniel Creed, from Boston, a sergeant major at Yongsan with the 17th Aviation Brigade. He told us that he and 20 other soldiers in his unit, along with some Katusas, volunteer their Saturdays to teach English at local schools. “I’ve appreciated the friendship of Koreans so much I decided to do this to give a little back,” he said.
Sergeant Creed’s crew also adopted a local orphanage for mentally disabled children. The soldiers collect blankets, clothes and cash for the orphans, and often go play with the kids.
On our second call we met Thomas Sivak from Pennsylvania, a first sergeant with the 8th Military Police brigade. He and other guys in his unit sponsor an orphanage for older children. “We like to throw parties for the kids, like for Christmas or Halloween,” he said. “Recently we brought them on post for some bowling. It was good fun.”
The third call went to Norman Carter, from New York, a master sergeant also with the MP brigade whose 11-year-old daughter Normlica lives with him here in Seoul. Dad and daughter organize clothes drives, collecting jackets, jeans and whatnot to give to a welfare-active church. “It was mostly my daughter’s idea,” he said.
After all this caring-and-sharing talk, we began to feel uneasy ― the 37,000 U.S. troops here are our tripwire, for Ike’s sake. If the North Koreans start goose-stepping across the DMZ, will sergeants Creed, Sivak and Carter greet them with teddy bears and candy bars?
No, Sergeant Creed assured us, the GIs haven’t gone soft. Last Saturday, in fact, he brought some hard power to one of the elementary schools, arranging the landing of an army helicopter on its soccer field. “It was really exciting,” he said. “It was the last day of school, and the kids were able to climb inside the copter and strap themselves in.”
Conspicuously absent at the spectacle, of course, were the journalists ― word is they were busy scraping the wax off their keyboards.
by Mike Ferrin