Remembering The Fallen – My Father
by Don Bradway
As some of you may know, my older son, Jason and I are heading to Seoul, Korea, as guests of the Korean government. I, along with the other survivors of service members killed or MIA in the Korean War, have been asked to write about what the loss of our family member meant to us. This is what I submitted:
On the loss of my father, Captain Judson Jack Bradway, United States Marine Corps
I was three-years-old when my father’s airplane was shot down over North Korea. I was probably five-years-old when my mother told me my father was never coming home. While I was only three when he left for Korea, I had memories of my father and still do, after all of these years. Those memories were reinforced over the years by family members and my father’s friends, who all told me what a wonderful, loving man he had been. They told me of his tremendous sense of humor and the kindness he showed to everyone who knew him. They also told me how much he loved me, my mother and the baby he never got to meet, as he died eight days before my sister was born.
All of my friends at school had fathers who did what fathers did with their sons. They played catch, took them fishing, taught them how to use tools and fix things. I didn’t. I missed my father terribly. My mother eventually remarried (to my father’s best friend and a truly good man) but he was not my father and was never a “pop” to me.
All of my childhood friends knew that my father had been shot down and was probably never coming home. I was the only “war orphan” they knew and knowing that he had most likely died while killing Communists gave me a “place of honor” in their hearts. It was something I would have gladly given up if he could have come home.
My father was listed as “Missing in Action” for a number of years and I held out hope that he would be found, alive, perhaps in a North Korean prison camp and finally released. Eventually, the United States government declared he had been “Killed in Action” but that didn’t dampen my hopes that he would be found. It wasn’t until I was a young adult that that hope was quashed. I spent time with one of my father’s squadron mates, who explained just what had happened to my father and why there was no chance he would have escaped the crash of his Corsair, due to the low altitude he was flying on his bombing run.
Because my father’s body was never recovered, it was, at times, difficult to believe he was truly never coming back. It wasn’t until I visited the Punchbowl cemetery (National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific) in Hawai’i and saw and felt his name engraved on the stone panel that it truly hit me. This was his tombstone and he really wasn’t ever coming home. I was a father myself, by this time, and his absence hit me all the harder.
I am very proud of my father. He died defending an ally of the United States. He gave his life so that others could live in freedom and, knowing how the citizens of the Republic of Korea have prospered in their free country, I know his death was not in vain. But, I still miss him, terribly.
This is part 2 in a series. Read the first part here.
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