More than six decades ago, I wrote my weekly column about Dwight D. McMahon, a young man killed in the Korean War. Today as we observe the anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy, I fervently hope we can find a way to end war. Here is what I had to say.
The Return to Farragut of One of Its Boys
A small, little-noticed item was in the newspaper last week telling of the return to Farragut of one of its boys. It is the kind of an item that could bear much reading between the lines. The story would be far more worthwhile than many of the accounts of juvenile delinquency or youthful indiscretions which frequent our newspapers.
This story might start like this: Once upon a time a baby boy was born in a big rambling white farm house set on top of a high hill north of Farragut, Iowa. The house looked down into the valley that holds the East Nishnabotna River and the small rural town of Farragut, then peered across to the distant hills to the south and west. It is one of the loveliest views in southwest Iowa. Here, the growing boy roamed the hills, learned about the trees, grasses and insects in the timbers, collected quantities of treasures which are of utmost value to small boys, and happily flew kites in the green meadow.
When school started he would run laughing and skipping out of the big white house chasing his sisters and running a race with his brothers to see who could reach the school bus first. Then came the ride into town with the other boys and girls who found him a happy, fun-loving companion. Oh, he was full of mischief. Who would want a boy who didn’t tease and play pranks once in awhile? But with all his fun, his enjoyment of sports and the outside activities of the school, he worked hard, studied and learned the ways that help him to do well any project he attempted.
As with most farm boys, he helped with the chores, first just tagging along with his father and older brother; then came the time when he could carry the empty buckets and, finally, he was old enough to be trusted with the baskets full of precious feed to the waiting animals. Gathering eggs may not have been a very exciting job after the first week, but it helped teach him a sense of responsibility and developed the ability to carry through and finish necessary tasks.
The church figured prominently in his life. On Sunday and during the summer when Vacation Bible schools were being held, he always attended. He learned the place of God in this great universe and made Him a part of his life. He stood with the white-robed Junior Choir and sang joyously at Christmas programs, the Easter services, the day practically the entire group became members of the church and even the sad day when they sang at the funeral of their dear friend and minister, the Reverend Carl Corrie, who had taught them the ways of religious living and brought them into the fellowship of the church.
There is much more to the story. His high schools days, the girls he dated, the lasting friendships made, the months of working in nearby Shenandoah and finally his enlistment in the army in 1950.
When he came home in February of 1953 the other day, he brought with him the war in Korea. No longer was it a fight in a far-away land. It became a battle close to Farragut. Heartbreak Ridge was not just a name used in a radio commentary or on a map, it became a place full of service, sacrifice, pain and suffering.
The newspaper item was brief. It said that “The body of Dwight D. McMahon, 21, son of Mr. and Mrs. Hal McMahon, who was killed in fighting on Heartbreak Ridge October 26, was returned to Farragut last week. A short memorial service was held Sunday at the Methodist church.”
That was all. But those of us who could see behind the words knew that Dwight was home at last.
When tragedies occur from any causes, neighbors come together to support one another. Taking food to a family suffering loss has been a long tradition in the Midwest. The casserole is a dish that can feed many and keeps well. Here is one of my favorite recipes.
1 pound ground pork
¼ cup chopped onion
¼ cup diced sweet green pepper
2 cups diced celery
1 cup cooked rice or cooked macaroni
1 1-ounce package beef noodle soup mix
1 1-ounce package onion soup mix
2 cups hot water
1 4-ounce can mushrooms, stems and pieces, undrained
½ cup toasted almonds
In a skillet combine ground pork, onion, green pepper, and celery. Cover and cook on low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally so mixture doesn’t stick. Drain excess fat. Stir rice or macaroni and soup mixes into hot water and add with remaining ingredients to skillet. Spoon into casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for about an hour. Recipe freezes very well. Makes 6 to 8 servings.