On June 25, 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea, leading to the outbreak of the Korean War. This war, often known as the “forgotten war,” ended after three horrible years with the signing of the Korea Armistice Agreement in July 1953, in Panmunjom.

Now, just a few months after that signing, the young man walking this hard South Korean road desperately wanted to forget this war forever. He despised his memories. The despair on the faces of refugees pushing south, their meager possessions on their backs. Bodies along the side of the road, frozen by the bone-chilling winter-and during the sweltering summer months, those bodies created a repulsive stench that could not be avoided. He hated the constant, distant explosion of bombs and the rapid flashes of rifle fire. Two years of this devastation had brought a heavy darkness to his spirit. His youth had been drained.

He had an entire afternoon to kill before getting back to the base. But he had needed to escape his buddies in the noisy and bustling USO. They couldn’t reach his deep-seated loneliness or heal the anguish he felt in his heart. His friends had their own stories-their own traumas and demons to fight.

He imagined Christmas Day with his family in Montana. He smiled. He wanted to be home on Christmas Day, not alone in this desolate country. It was almost more than his fragile emotions could handle. He felt empty. He hated how the loneliness enveloped him, but he couldn’t shake it.

Absorbed in his thoughts, he felt the sudden sensation of being watched. He looked up. His watcher stood behind a rough wooden fence in the dark shadows of the alley beside one of the small stores. He slowed slightly, watching her from beneath his cap. Apparently startled, she averted her eyes. He was touched by her shyness, and he glanced away, unwilling to embarrass her.

After such a hard and cruel war, how could anyone still have the capacity to be soft and timid? He was curious.