Christian Short Stories

No Valentine for Victor
By Web Ruble

Web writes: "I was in the Marine Reserve before my stint in the army. Two-to-three years after this incident, I was in the same Marine Reserve unit, although I never learned of the tragic details of this story until quite a bit later."

She missed the opportunity -- big time.

Disastrous. A fatal decision from which she and the shocked town have had a hard time forgetting.

That’s the way it translated out to me – a nerd observing it from a cultural distance -- still a wimp in high school.

Korean War. President Truman immediately dispatched the armed services and reserves to South Korea after the June 25, 1950, invasion by the Communist North.

In so invading, the North Koreans bowled over American forces -- along with several South Korean units -- just south of the 38th Parallel which had separated the two Koreas. The communist force intended to unite the two by force.

The invasion at first was massive and successful. The north routed the south along with the tiny-in- numbers defending American units, blowing apart and capturing Seoul, South Korea’s capital and largest city. The end was near. The North vowed death to anyone or anything that got in its way. North Korea was well trained, capable and relentless.

Appeals for help came fast and loud. Disaster was happening.

Furious, the American President dispatched the Air Force, Army and Navy, and called up the reserves. The American public was equally outraged by what appeared to be clear-cut aggression. Judged as unacceptable on many fronts, other countries rallied behind Uncle Sam.

However, opposing the allied intervention and favoring the north’s action, was the huge Soviet Union, its East European satellites, and China, which a year earlier had won its prolonged civil war against Chiang-Kai-Shek and his Nationalists. It had driven the latter from China soil onto Taiwan isle.

A clear, decisive victory on the Korean Peninsula would solidify things for the Communists. The South Koreans were frantic, and the same mood prevailed among Americans at home and abroad.

Do something quick. So Harry Truman did.

He sent the Marines.

No surprise there. The first American fighters to go anywhere in the world where American interests are attacked, or seriously threatened, are the Marines. And so they were again.

The problem at that moment, however, was the U.S. Marine Corps had been depleted five years earlier following World War II. That meant calling up reserves, including the small unit in my home town.

It was linked immediately with similar units from small towns throughout Southwest Washington and Portland and attendant burbs. Lumped together as an emergency force, the reserves were sent to San Diego for quick, six-week training and then on to Japan for a few days’ staging. From there, of course, it was straight to the bloody front in Korea.

Pvt. Victor Valentine, who had just graduated from high school that spring, had joined the reserve as insulation against military draft. However, events happened fast. He found himself in San Diego so fast his head was aswim. After intensive training there, he and cohort Marine reservists were shipped to Japan.

Valentine had had to leave home so fast, he hadn’t had a lot of chances to say goodbye. He had a few idle hours in Japan just before shipping across to Korea so decided to call his mother in Oregon on the overseas telephone.

At first he could not locate her, but he finally did. She was in a bingo parlor. Now, Harriet was a serious bingo player and, like many, she played several cards at once. She had a busy night and was frantically trying to keep up with the numbers caller.

She told her son that she was too busy to talk to him.

Ten days later he was dead.

- - - -

Throughout the half century since I’ve believed that hell has no fury greater than that. And I have believed that the same holds for just about anyone who knew Valentine or the story.

As decades of time have drifted and I’ve become a more solid Christian, it is still hard for me to believe that shoal has anything worse. A bingo game so hot that a mother has no time to say goodbye to her boy. So. . .every once in a while I force myself to recall the memory. I offer up old scripture from John 3:16 that for me now takes on new meaning: “God so loved the world that he gave his only son . . .”

(© 2011 Web Ruble – All rights reserved. Written material may not be duplicated without permission.)

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