Grace Ackerman, the wife of Korean War veteran Bruce H. Ackerman, met her husband in Washington D.C. after he returned from the war in 1952. She worked in the accounting department at the Capitol in Washington DC. Grace Ackerman graciously spent many years volunteering her time in a veterans hospital in New York State. She and 17 others adopted a floor of the hospital and spent time talking with the veterans, bringing them gifts, setting up bingo games, and serving as a source of support for them. While working with younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, Grace Ackerman continued her veteran outreach. She visited Korea in 2006 with her church group and was in awe with the beauty of the churches in Korea, and of the rich culture of Korea.
Speaking About War: A Healing Process
Grace Ackerman feels that the Korean War Legacy Foundation is important because it allows the veterans to speak about their experiences during the Korean War. Students and future generations will also be able to gain knowledge from the interviews. Experiences such as the cold weather, being away from family, and personal experiences endured during the Korean War.
PTSD: Iraq and Afghan War Veterans
Grace Ackerman goes to the veterans' hospital in Syracuse, New York with the Auxillery group to help in the healing process. Her group is not officially there to help veterans from the Iraq and Afghan War overcome their Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD), but they are there to listen when the veterans need it. Older war veterans have had time to heal and process their experiences, whereas the young veterans are still finding their way. Grace Ackerman believes that veterans' hospitals should be doing more to address PTSD in our young veterans.
Releasing Memories About the Korean War: Terrifying
Grace Ackerman was glad that she was able to be there for her husband, Bruce Ackerman, when he started to talk about his experiences during the Korean War, but it was terrifying to know the conditions that the veterans had to endure. Bruce Ackerman didn't start speaking about it until he was retired and able to have more time to ponder his time in Korea. Grace Ackerman recalled how most of the US didn't know about Korea when the war began in 1950 until the media started to cover the Korean War.
Returning to Korea and Supporting the US Veterans
Grace Ackerman was told by her husband, Bruce Ackerman, about the poor conditions in Korea during the war with mud paths, dirt roads, and huts. While visiting Korea during a church trip, she was able to see their new beautiful churches and the teenagers who were so courteous. As part of the Auxiliary, Grace Ackerman helps the veteran community by adopting a floor at the local veterans' hospital to make food, send gifts, and play bingo.
G: My name is Grace Evelyn Ackerman and I met Bruce in Washington and became his wife.
I: great so I know that you guys met after the war but it is pretty soon after he returned correct?
I: so lets start out with when you learned about this project, when he told you about it. What were your thoughts about his participation and I guess the idea of what this project is
G: I don’t remember having any decisive idea but I think it’s a good thing espiaclly for the veterans because it gives them a chance to release any tensions they may have regarding the Korean war.
I: what kind of tensions?
G: well after thoughts, what they went through, the cold freezing weather, being away from their family, and all of this has to have some bearing on them and like my husband did he buried his he never thought about it until in the early 90’s when he retired Then he had time to think about it and I think this project is going to be good and it will also be educational to the people who’s going to look at it later
I: many years afterwards how was that transition like you know being a part of his life at that point
G: You mean when he started talking about the Korean
G: It was interesting to a certain extent but it was also very upsetting just think that anyone not just him but any of the fellers that were over there and the girls to who were there as nurses and stuff like that it had to be very very terrifying lack of a better word
I: Ya, that’s good you were there to help him thru it then
G: Well I was hoping I would be able to
I: you were im sure
G: he stayed with me.
I was working in Washington DC and I was working in the accounting department at the government office and I heard about it and like most Americans never even heard of the country I didn’t even know it existed and of course I was much younger and I was more interested in social life than war talk.
I: and I guess throughout the war did the media cover it at all
G: oh yes, media did cover it, but I was 17 and I had other things on my mind
I: exactly and you met Bruce pretty soon after
G: I met Bruce in the fall of 1952 and we were married in December and that’s the first I think I really took any serious thoughts about the Korean war he did say he was there and that he was back but that was about it and im thankful he got back
G: we went over in about 2006
I: and how was that
G: very enlightening of course when he did talk to us about the Korean war it was all mud pass and dirt roads and huts we got over there and it was like going from Syracuse to new York city. It was so matter and beautiful the churches were out of this world they are gourgeous the people very appreciative very thankful the teenagers very courteous and reenter I have just enjoyed the whole visit.
I:so when you went over there you were probally like bruce this isn’t what you’re telling me about this is a different country
G: well we had 3 members of the Korean war veterns un the auxillary he did hear from others who’ve been there say how much it had improved so we wernt completely shocked but it was a big surprise. We did not think it was that far advadnced and the people were just wonderful very intellegient very smart very cordial I love them.
I: what have you learned not just through your husband but maybe throught interacting with other wives or their family and
G: well im going to be perfectly honest with you we don’t really discuss that it’s a mosly women talk you know we have tea or coffee and we gap we don’t talk about the war maybe its because we don’t wanna know maybe its because we don’t want to refresh their memories I don’t know but we don’t usually talk about it in the auxillary the only time we really disscuss veterens is when we do think were doing things for them we are very active with the veterans hospital auxillary is
I: So what do you do
G: well we have bingo games and the president stayed lunches then we used to have picinics I don’t know they haven’t had them latwely and I think it might be a restriction on the hospital because its taking them away from there jurisdiction you know what im saying we take them to a park and sometimes a patient could get hurt so its I think they kinda of put a stop to that, im not sure.
I: Well I think that’s that’s great that you are helping out the community, I mean bettering the community.
G: Oh yes, we do, we send gifts every Christmas and we send gifts for them to uh, we’ve adopted a certain floor down there and all of the patients there that get them, on that floor get a gift. We are a small organization, we only have about seventeen members. So, we cant do the whole hospital as much as we’d like to.
I: During the actual creating, I am wondering if you have noticed any change in how, in peoples, in citizens mentality or belief throughout the past forty of fifty years regarding, you know, more in general how we…
G: Well, its hard to say because some of them, they still think it’s a forgotten war. And the only thing that going to wake them up to its not forgotten is, keep remembering all of these young men and women who were injured or killed over there. And that’s not only the Americans, the koreans as well. Oh no, we were talking about the um, hospital. The axillary was trying to do what they can to help the patients there.
I: And, I guess, I was talking to this with your husband about how a lot of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, you know, they have some issues, that are not necessarily dealt with by the hospitals or by the military, or by the government. That need to be addressed such as PTSD, or things like that. So… I think that’s great that you guys…
G: Im not too much of a volunteer anymore because of you might say health reasons. Um, the girls that do go there or the ladies that do go there, they don’t force the issue of having veterans talk about their experiences. That is up to the medical personal to do that because they know how to handle it. We go, or they go to uh stay in the hospital a little more happier or a little more comfortable. We take small gifts, we talk to them, they read to them, we have bingo games, things like that. As far as getting them to talk about the war, or to advise them to forget about it or whatever, we don’t do that. We are volunteers, and we follow the code of the volunteer department.
I: Well, I think it is a great support group that anyone would appreciate, especially the soilders that are coming home , that don’t necessarily have that…
G: The younger ones, like you say from Iraq and uh Afghanistan, they are the young men, and it’s a lot harder on them, than it is on our veterans because they have lived through it and they are basically settled. The young men are having problems because of the medical restrictions and uh I don’t know just what they are, and I have heard conversations. I cant repeat them because I cant remember them all, but I think that um, and I am speaking generally, that the hospital should be a little bit more addressed to the fact of what these young men and women have gone through. They cant put post- dramatic stress syndrome on that and say that it is just bonk, it is all in his mind. Sure its in his mind, but, and I know that the VA house battle here in Syracuse, is terrific. I cant find any fault at all with that one there. You have an appointment, and you are there within twenty minutes before, and if you aren’t called by fifteen minutes after your appointment, they do something about it. And, they are very very good. And I think that even the young men that are going in now, not just the young men, the women too. Because they have a womens department, they just get tremendous help. Its going to help them, I think more so then it helped our men, because of the advancement in medicine. They are going to be able to help them.
I: Well, I think that about sums up all of the questions I have.
I: I wanna thank you for being part of this project. I really appreciate you coming by and talking to us.
G: Im glad to do it and I hope to be of some help.
I: Of course, of course. Thank you very much.
G: Thank you