By Russell Lawson
Korean War veteran Donnie Kesler of Muskogee spoke to Dr. Russell Lawson’s American Civilization II class on Friday afternoon, April 10th. Mr. Kesler served in Korea from 1953 to 1954, when an armistice had brought the three year Korean War to a close but adversarial relations continued to exist across the 38th Parallel between North and South Korea.
Mr. Kesler lives in Muskogee with his daughter Kim Holt; they know many Bacone students through their affiliation with the Muskogee Church of Christ. Ty Blackwell from Panama, a Senior majoring in Sports Management, has heard Mr. Kesler tell stories of his Korean experiences; Ty thought that other students would enjoy the stories, and arranged for Mr. Kesler to speak to Dr. Lawson’s history class.
Students listened as Mr. Kesler told of the starving children of South Korea, mostly eight or nine years old, upon whom American soldiers, with too many supplies, took pity, and shared their food. The Koreans were very poor, sleeping in mud and thatch huts with dirt floors even during the extremely cold winters. One youngster had gangrene in his leg; Mr. Kesler drove him to Seoul, the capitol, to see if Korean physicians could save him. One of the few “farm boys” in his unit, Mr. Kesler knew how to drive just about everything, and made himself useful. When not doing errands, he served in a defensive radar facility.
Mr. Kesler brought to show students his stripes (he became a staff sergeant), a sample round of ammunition (50-caliber), photos, caps, books, and more. He enjoyed reminiscing about politics, and compared the 38th Parallel separating North and South Korea to the Berlin Wall separating East and West Berlin. Everyone enjoyed the talk.