My father died before I was 2 years old in a motorcycle accident. I have no memories of him.
I am the youngest child of five. My oldest sister, who is 13-years my senior, married John, an American officer. John was the first white person I had ever met. His blond hair, blue eyes, and his non-serious manner seemed so foreign to me at the time.
He came to visit us in Young-kwang, my hometown. I think I was 12. It was my job to take him to the town bakery for breakfast. I remember walking down that main street, feeling so embarrassed that everyone was looking at my white brother-in-law. What can I say. I was 12 and at that age, I was embarrassed about everything.
The next summer, I visited John and my sister’s home in Seoul. On my 13th birthday, John took me to a Dairy Queen inside the American military fort, and he bought me a banana split. Let me tell you, I did not know what banana split was until that day. Not used to such a sweet treat, I couldn’t finish it. John finished it for me. He has a sweet tooth. 🙂
John also took me to see the movie, Annie, at the fort, which I loved even though I didn’t understand English. Over the years, John was there for me where my father should have been. When I came to America to join them in Kansas, John taught me the western table manners. John ‘grilled’ my husband with questions when Andrew and I were dating.
What does it take to be a hero? John fought in Vietnam war. Not just one tour but two. He received a Purple Heart and many other distinctions and honors. And I am very proud of him.
But to this day, I can not eat a banana split without remembering the first one that John bought for me. John is a hero to me because he offered a piece of his life to a fatherless child. Me.