Fraser: Korean War veteran looks back at ‘forgotten war’
Sky-Hi Daily News
Two flags adorn the front of a modest white trailer in Clayton Court on Clayton Street in Fraser.
On one side flies an American Flag. On the other, a U.S. Marine Corps flag.
The inside of the front door, propped open this warm autumn day, has a bright red U.S. Marine Corps sticker right at eye level. It reads, “semper fidelis.” Always faithful.
The owner of the trailer, Clifford Clayton, was born in Fraser and has lived in this town his whole life.
Clayton sits tall in his kitchen, a tube leads down the hallway to an oxygen tank that helps him breath.
The sound of the tank keeps keeps a sort of time in the silence as he ponders what to say.
Life is slower these days, he said.
A stroke seven years ago stole half of his memory.
In his home, a miniature version of the Marine flag sits on top of his television set.
Next to his chair is the 2007 fall/winter issue of the Sgt. Grit Marine Corps Specialties catalogue. He picks it up and shows the many pages of Marines merchandise, from emblems, apparel, books, to collector’s coins, hats, pins and flags.
On a table next to the catalogue is a “Marines” window decal, the latest of Clayton’s purchases.
He saved a special spot for it in the front window.
Clayton is a proud veteran, a retired sergeant of the U.S. Marines who served in the Korean War.
He joined the reserves when he was 18.
Asked why he opted to join, he smiles and responds, “I don’t know if I should tell you that,” but then offers, “it was to beat the draft.”
Clayton served in the heart of the “Forgotten War,” as the Korean War has come to be known.
Main hostilities between North Korea and South Korea were from June of 1950 to July of 1953, an escalated civil war that involved the United States and the Soviet Union as part of a the larger Cold War. Clayton was there in 1952.
Launched from San Diego, Calif., he arrived by troop ship in Sasebo, southern Japan. From there, they traveled to Korea, he said.
Although he remembers little about his actual time there, other than being shot at by Chinese forces, he does remember traveling through both parts of Korea, from the south to the north, the warmer region to the colder.
Fighting in the north was “tough,” he said. “Every day, people were shooting at us,” he said.
Clayton survived combat and was honorably discharged. After the war, he returned to Fraser and started his construction business and gravel pit.
The 77-year-old is a life member of the VFW and a father of two grown daughters and a son, who live within blocks of Clayton Court.
His limited memories of the war are shared with only a handful of other Korean War veterans in Grand County, and even fewer who were actually stationed in Korea.
He has noticed how the war remains in history’s shadows, despite overall casualties estimated to exceed a million, not including a large number of civilian deaths.
“Everything that happened before and after is bigger,” he said. “Vietnam, World War II . . . the Korean War just slipped into the middle. People don’t remember too much about that.”
Having been in the Marines is among Clayton’s most significant accomplishments in life, he said. “I survived, with pride.”
On a shelf above the kitchen table sits a Marines mug, a past birthday present.
A few surfaces of furniture have Marines stickers.
As he stands for a photo, he puffs out his chest, his shoulders back, reminiscent of his position as sergeant 55 years ago.
In his opinion, the Marines, he said, are “the best.”
He raises his chin. “I’m still proud, baby.”
-Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext 19603 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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