Our company commander decided to take the young boy with us for awhile. Later, we decided to pick a name for him, and called him Jo-Lang.
He was everybody's brother for almost two years. It seemed to give us something to fight for; the more we looked at him, the madder we got at the enemy. As time went by, Jo-Lang began to adapt to our way of life. He stayed at night with our company commander in a bunker called the CO. We dressed him in a Marine uniform, gave him a set of dog tags with the name Jo-Lang and his serial number was 1950.
He became one of us. And we all were called by our first names. Lem, our interpreter, was a Chinese from California, and spoke three different languages fluently. In his spare time, he began to teach English to Jo-Lang, who seemed to have no memory of what happened. Later I was wounded and was sent to Japan for a second time. I kept in touch with my company, and especially what Jo-Lang was doing. He and I had become very close.
The last thing I heard after the war ended, Jo-Lang was sent to an orphanage somewhere in South Korea and, if I have my figures right, he could be around 62; that is, if he is still living. Melvin and Susie told Walter with tears in their eyes, "If Jo-Lang is in South Korea and alive, we will find him."
Early the next morning the search for Jo-Lang began. First, they got a list of all the orphanages in the surrounding areas dating back to the fifties. They found a total of 15 and some smaller ones and were told there was a large one, right out of Wonju, which was started back in 1951 by the United States Army. The Fifth Regimental team sponsored a boy's town and helped over 900 homeless orphans while the Seventh Infantry Division donated $36,734 to build the first orphanage in that area. Since then, it has become one of the largest orphanages in South Korea.
Walter told Melvin, "This one has a ring to it; let's catch a plane to Wonju and pay them a visit." The next morning they were on their way to that orphanage, which was about a 30-mile drive from the Wonju airport. When they arrived, they saw a beautiful place built in a valley surrounded by mountains.
As they entered the building, they could see a large bronze statue with a picture of a marine and a soldier with a foster child in between. They asked the desk clerk a few questions and told him that they were looking for an orphan dating back to 1950. The desk clerk was an older man, but asked if they had a name and age, and they told him "Jo-Lang, in his early sixties." After Dad told him the whole story, he smiled and said, "You must be angels. Jo-Lang has been telling me for years someone will come looking for him some day, but I just laughed it off and now you are here! Just a minute I will get him for you."
Soon a short, well-dressed man walked through the door and headed for Dad. He said, "I would know you anywhere because I have seen you in my dreams all my life." He then handed Dad his dog tags. Tears came to all their eyes as they hugged and went in his office and sat down to listen to Jo-Lang's real story.
"I went from orphanage to orphanage, finally ending up here, started getting some of my childhood memory back, but I never forgot my adopted family of the United States Marines, who taught me to live again and I always knew that someday we would find each other again," he said. "I never knew what my real name was; I just looked at my dog tags. I am married and have two boys and three girls with the name I was reborn with, thanks to my marine brothers. I have been here ever since; only now I run the place instead of occupying it."
Stay tuned to part four and the conclusion of bounty hunters and Dad's visit to the past.