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Harbor City International School Meets Mr. Jurek

Editorial Board Writer (Grade 10 / Harbor City International School) Originally published May 2005

Harbor City International School’s 10th grade CORE classes had the privilege of hearing the story of Korean War Veteran and P.O.W. of 33 months, Tony Jurek, Tuesday, February 15th. In 2nd semester CORE, 10th grade students have been studying warfare in the 20th Century. After learning about WWI, WWII, and the Cold War, the Korean War became the hot topic of the week and an interest point for students. CORE teacher, Anne Wise, took this opportunity to invite Mr. Jurek to our school to share his story.

Mr. Jurek dropped out of high school at age 17 and joined the Army. He was trained as a tank operator and was in a combat engineer battalion. While stationed in Washington state in 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea. His General volunteered the 2nd division to be shipped over to the 23 mile perimeter area that the South Koreans still occupied. By Thanksgiving the UN forces had brought the border back to the 38th parallel, and the Chinese were getting involved on the North Korean side. On December 1st, after a raid where most of the 2nd division was lost, they surrendered to the Chinese. For 23 days they were marched all over North Korea, with their food rations half a can of cracked corn two times a day. On Christmas Eve they were brought to a prison camp on the Chinese border where most of the men eventually died from frostbite and gangrene. In the spring they were moved to a second camp run by the Chinese, who treated them better than the North Koreans for propaganda purposes. By 25th of July, the day of the Cease Fire treaty, they were brought back to South Korea after a series of negotiations, and traded back to the UN troops by August 27th. When asked if he and other soldiers saw themselves as fighting the large threat of communism or simply assisting the South Koreans he replied that once you were out there you fought to just stay alive.

We were very fortunate to have hosted Mr. Jurek and enjoed the learning opportunity of listening to his experiences told in a genuine and humble manner. His story helped open our eyes and glimpse the reality of those who have actually fought. We were privileged to receive a snapshot of what isn’t always talked about.

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