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“I’m Finally Home, Mother…”

Posted February. 27, 2005 22:48,   


“After serving in the military, I wanted to make you happy…. I’m sorry. Mother!”

Among the soldiers from Camp One of the Zaytun unit that was dispatched in August of last year to the northern part of Iraq in the city of Irbil, 349 soldiers arrived in Seoul Airport in Seongnam city, Gyeonggi-do, on Saturday in a chartered plane.

While the soldiers were rejoicing from their reunions with their families, Sergeant Choi Jun-min (24) fell to his knees when he heard the news from his father (52) that his mother, Song Kyeong-jae (51), died from heart trouble last year in November.

The family had been hiding the death of his mother from him for more than three months, worried that Choi would have a traumatic reaction while staying in a foreign country thousands of miles away.

In the afternoon, Choi visited his mom’s grave located in Namyangju city, Gyeonggi-do, and as he showed tears, he said, “I knew something was wrong when they never put mother on the phone when I called home.”

Meanwhile, in the airport, people’s heads’ turned as Ahn Deok-sun (76) from Pohang, Gyeongbuk, a participant in the Korean War, handed a garland of flowers to his grandson Chang-hyeok (23, sergeant).

Embellished with “The first woman officer dispatched to foreign bases among Military Academy graduates” in front of her name, Lieutenant Cha Bin (25, the 58th class of Military Academy) said, “I felt tremendous pride in helping to reconstruct peace in war-torn Iraq and that I have worked for the national interest.” However, as soon as her mother approached her, Cha cried tears of joy as she hugged her mother tightly.

Among the returned soldiers, 281 will be discharged as they have finished their service in the military, and the remainder will return to service after enjoying a 25-day special vacation.

The remaining 1,700 soldiers from Camp One in Irbil will return home at the latest by mid-March and the departure of soldiers from Camp Two will begin starting early next month.

Jae-Myoung Lee egija@donga.com