From James Lee Jr.: When I arrived in Korea in December of 1956, I was surprised that the weather was about the same as it is in Salt Lake City in December. And there were lots of hills and mountains there as well. But the homes and villages were very poorly made, and very sad to see.
I was stationed five miles from the demilitarized zone where we had Quonset huts for barracks which were heated by one oil heater in the middle of the building. It was cold there.
Christmas day they brought into our company area a group of orphans to have dinner with us. They were scantily clad, and had no gloves or shoes as we know them. No coats either. We helped them fill their army trays with lots of food, and they sat by us eating what they could. It was fun to see them eat, but they couldn't eat nearly what we had dished up for them.
After eating, we all went to a show together, and a little girl sat by me as we watched the cartoons together. I noticed she was shaking from the cold, and so I took her on my lap and wrapped my coat around her to get her warm. Before the movie was over she was sound asleep on my lap.
That night as I sat in the library writing to my mother about the experience of the day, I cried because my heart was so touched by the plight of the orphans there in our area, and thought of all the other orphans there must be in Korea. I told her of the little girl who had no coat or gloves, and her shoes which were made up of sheets being wrapped around her little feet. It still makes me cry just to think about it as I am doing right now.
As I poured my heart out to her, knowing it would touch her heart, after she had raised 11 children of her own, I had no idea that she would undertake to start a project which would become the magnitude that it did.
Two weeks after sending off that letter to her, I received a letter from her with tear stains on it which she shed as she wrote to me. She told me she cried and cried to think of all those little ones over in Korea and wanted to do something about it. She said she was going to collect a thousand pounds of clothes to send me to share with them. Then I cried again.
A couple of weeks later I received another letter telling me that she had over one thousand pounds ready to send, and was changing her goal to two thousand pounds. Before I received my first shipment, she informed me she had reached her goal and had changed it to five thousand pounds. Then the shipments started coming to me in burlap sacks.
When I had enough to take a truck to deliver the bags to one of the orphanages it was a most exciting trip. And we made several more as more bags came in. Then Mom told me she was sending school supplies for the kids there as well. She also told me she had a greeting card stand set up out by the street to raise money to pay for the shipping costs.
All Spring and Summer the bags kept coming, and we kept delivering them to the orphanages, and seeing the excited looks on the faces of the children. But in the Fall when it started getting cold, Mom wrote and told me she wanted to send dolls and coats for all the kids, and she was advertising for help to give the little boys and girls a wonderful Christmas.
I told the orphanage director near our compound about the coats coming, and asked if he could bring the kids out so that we could take some measurements so the coats could be fitted properly. They came and the Korean tailors in our compound began measuring each of them for coats. When the coats started arriving, I took them to the tailors and they made over each coat so it would fit one of the children. Then the coats were wrapped up to be given to the children on Christmas day 1957 when they all came out for Christmas Dinner.
I didn't get to see them receive their presents as we made arrangements to deliver a truck load of bags just received, to some of the orphanages, and to try and locate Lee Eun Ok, a little Korean orphan whom Mom had been sponsoring for some time. She had sent three boxes of gifts just for her, among which was a big doll which had belonged to my sister. When we finally located her, it was enough to make me cry. She was such a little sweetheart, and smiled all the time we were there. They sat her up on a table so all the other little orphans could see her. They strapped the doll on her back and then had her parade around to show off this big beautiful doll. She was so proud and happy it made me cry. Then we gave the orphanage a bunch of bags of things Mom had sent over, and the kids stood around singing Christmas songs for us.
Heading back to the barracks, some 40 miles away over dirt roads was so easy, because I held in my memory a Christmas I would never forget as long as I live. It was better than any I had experienced before in my life, and I find my face wet with tears this very moment, just thinking about it, even though it happened 46 years ago.
When I returned home from Korea, I had the opportunity of helping Mom ship the last load of things to Korea. She had shipped twenty tons, (40,000 lbs) including food, clothes, school supplies, coats, and over 200 dolls to Korea for the orphans, and I had the privilege of delivering most of them to the orphanages there. The last shipment was sent to the Mission President to distribute among the members of the church who needed them, through the Relief Society. There were 156 members of the church in all of Korea at the time, and many of them were very poor. And today there are Wards and Stakes there and also a beautiful Temple.
I hope, in some small way, that my tour of duty in Korea helped to make a difference in the lives of those whom I had to leave behind, who became dear to my heart.