"A Clinton County, Kentucky warrior, breaded and grimy, is resting today, back from the rugged fighting on mountainous Heartbreak Ridge in Korea," wrote Robert Schakne, Korean War Correspondent for WLW Radio in Cincinnati on Oct. 4, 1951. "The soldier is James E. Morrison of Seminary, Kentucky. He is enjoying some well-earned rest, along with a hot shower and hot food."
The writer got it right. James Earl Morrison was a warrior. He accepted the challenge of leading his unit from Co. C of the 23rd Infantry, 2nd Division, when no one else there on Heartbreak Ridge would. And, in doing so, he displayed exceptional valor on more than one occasion, rising to the rank of Master Sargeant.
While you may prefer to call it by it's formal name, Korean Conflict, Mr. Morrison preferred to call it a war.
On Sept. 2, 1951, while running across a field during an enemy attack on Heartbreak Ridge, he picked up a wounded soldier, slung him across his back and ran as fast as he could toward a first aid station. Along the way, they were hit by a grenade, which severely injured J.E.'s leg. It was his ticket home from a war where not much hope for survival could be seen. But J.E. refused to leave his troops behind and, with unfathomable valor I can't begin to comprehend, led his men through violent enemy fire, while being completely surrounded, until the Marines were able to break through one of the lines and rescue them two weeks later.
As the years went by, J.E. rarely spoke of the war. Most people who knew him were not aware of his heroism until the remains of Pvt. Joe Elmore were brought back home a couple of years ago, 68 years after he had been declared MIA, and J.E. began to talk about his tour of duty in North Korea. Many of you probably saw the photo of him at Pvt. Elmore's casket, standing at attention, saluting. His son David got him the cap you see in the photo. He was so proud of it.
Last year, when artist Norma Anderson unveiled her portrait of him, someone remarked what a great honor it was for him. As he began to reply, his voice became weakened with emotion. Pointing at the portrait he said, "I didn't do what I did for that."
After he fell and broke his hip in the latter part of January, the doctors and hospital staff were amazed with his grit and determination as he fought his way back during rehabilitation. But, it made sense to me. He was, after all, a warrior and the path of the Warrior is lifelong, and the mastery of it is often simply staying on the path, and that he did.
J.E. Morrison died last night at the age of 91. Our warrior is fully at rest now. Although his sun has set, its light shall linger round us yet, Bright, Radiant, Blest.
He was my friend.
Tuesday, April 7, 2020
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