Archive for Sunday, September 18, 2005

Veterans reunited after half a century

September 18, 2005


— There they were, their images frozen in time, framed forever inside the borders of a black-and-white photograph.

Their young faces were smooth and smiling, their eyes bright and alive, their hair thick.

They draped their arms around each other as they posed like a band of young brothers at a Sunday family picnic.

Their names: Miller, Coleman, Stotts, Van Giesen, Higginbotham.

The year: 1950.

The place: Korea.

Dozens of pictures and newspaper clippings are the only reminders the five had of each other and the time the five spent together during the Korean War.

Four of the five were together for about a year in Korea.

Once the war ended, the five went their separate ways and lost touch with each other for more than 50 years. Until two weeks ago.

After more than half a century, the five men of the 99th Field Artillery, 1st Cavalry Division, headquarters battery wire section gathered for a few days in a Springfield hotel to see each other with their own eyes.

They sifted through the pictures and pages from their time in the war, although their faces today, after 55 years, are not as easy to identify anymore.

"I recognized the voices more than the faces," said Paul Coleman, 74, of Ellis, Kan., who was 18 when he fought in Korea.

They came to Springfield because they heard it was a nice city. But they didn't come to see the sights.

"This is not a vacation. It's not entertainment. It's us getting together for the first time," said Glenn Stotts, 73, of Gary, Ind., who spent 33 months in a Korean prisoner of war camp.

The other four thought he was dead until last year.

The remaining four, minus Stotts, had found each other through searches on the Internet.

Stotts was found in a search on the Korean War Project Web site, a nonprofit corporation devoted to the study of the Korean War.

It wasn't until a couple of years ago that the others found out that Stotts was alive.

Higginbotham, 74, of Fresno, Calif., a retired mechanic who was 18 when he went to Korea, still gets emotional when he recalls hearing his buddy's voice for the first time in 55 years last summer.

"I asked him: 'Stotts, do you remember me?' and he said 'Where have you been for 55 years?"' Higginbotham said, his lower lip quivering and his eyes filling with tears.

They all agree that the reunion has done them some good, and they want to do it again next year.


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