Korean War veteran Lawrence Parrish

Korean War veteran Lawrence Parrish is shown in his Sergeant Bluff, Iowa, home. Parrish, 90, served in the Army during the war.  

SERGEANT BLUFF | Lawrence Parrish, 90, often spends his days at home watching television and reading the newspaper. He also mulls some bigger questions, such as deciding which presidential candidate to vote for.

In late September, he also pointed to an article that was part of a series in the Journal that highlighted key issues of the 2016 campaign. He referenced a story that was lying face-up on his living room footstool, with the headline, "North Korea and nuclear weapons."

Asked Parrish, "What do you think will happen there?" The topic has primacy for Parrish, since, in his mid-20s, he fought in the Korean War, as the U.S. sided with South Korea in a three-year conflict aimed at fending off the spread of communism in the north.

Parrish, a Nebraska native, was drafted by the U.S. Army in January 1951. The youngest in a family of 11 children, he had been farming with his brother, Cecil Parrish, near Decatur.

"Then Uncle Sam called me. I was surprised," Lawrence Parrish said.

Back in the days when newspapers and radio were main news sources, Parrish said he knew little about the war before he was summoned to be part of it.

He broke an ankle in Army basic training in Missouri, so his deployment to the Kumhwa Valley was delayed until August 1951. As a member of the 25th Division Third Regiment, he replaced troops that "had been shot up," and thereafter the first part of his Korea service was a matter of defending "hill after hill."

He recalled flood lights used by North Korean soldiers and guarding a coal mine as he carried an M1 rifle on the front line. He pulled night guard duties, with two hours on duty, then two hours off.  He was near the area of Heartbreak Ridge and Bloody Ridge, places that got notable and memorable names after battles. One time he was among soldiers who were pinned down by enemy fire for 30 hours, hoping to survive.

"We would attack, try to get a hill...Guys got shot, killed," Parrish recalled.

He said the U.S. soldiers received good training, although the officers leading the men were at times a mixed bag.

"We had one that was worth nothing," Parrish recalled.

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By spring 1952, he was reassigned to driving jeeps in the motor pool.

"Oh, I loved that. I was off the line then," Parrish said.

Parrish was moved to the Punchbowl area in the Haean-myon Valley, which got the name for being a bowl-shaped area. Things were reversed there, as he said U.S. troops were in valleys and the enemy was up on ridges. Either way, it was a bloody business.

Replacements arrived by July 1952, so Parrish was shipped back to the U.S., and discharged later that year.

He was matter-of-fact in assessing how he performed as a soldier in the war sandwiched between World War II and the Vietnam War.

"It was something I did for the United States. My duty was, I enjoyed fighting for the country I live in," Parrish said.

Once he left the service in December 1952, Parrish became a welder for Wilson Trailer in Sioux City, then moved to his Sergeant Bluff home in 1956, where he has lived the past 60 years.

Parrish married his wife, Gloria, and the couple had two children. He enjoyed dances and rollerskating. Parrish has been active with the American Legion chapter in Sergeant Bluff. He worked for the city of Sergeant Bluff, handling groundskeeping until retiring in 1988.

Now, Parrish has lots of free time. Also during that September day, he pointed to a book titled "Korea Reborn: A Grateful Nation." Parrish said he wasn't sure how Koreans viewed the troops, but he wonders how the area he tramped and drove through 64 years ago looks today.

"I'd like to go back over and see where I went through," Parrish said.

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