We’re Gonna Build A Wall

by Chris de Serres

There was a fence with razor wire.  It stretched as far as the eye could see in both directions.  In the distance, on the other side of the fence, there was another fence running parallel.  In between there were people tending rice paddies.  They lived here.  In between two fences.

We unfolded our map and placed it on the ground.  About 50 meters to the left of their rice paddies was a huge minefield.  From what we could see, there was no outward indications that it was there.  No warning signs.  No brightly colored tape attached to a tree.

It was a relic from the Korean War.  The DMZ itself was a relic, but it still served a practical purpose.  There was nothing like it in the world.  We were allowed to patrol it.  So were the North Koreans.  It was a little over 2 miles from our fence to the North Korean one.  Generally we patrolled in the area closest to our fence and the North Koreans patrolled near their fence.  The DMZ snakes for 150 miles, bisecting the Korean Peninsula.

We were the last active unit of Americans still present on the DMZ.

I pulled out my binoculars.  There was a village just beyond the North fence.  Alongside it was a flagpole jutting 525 feet into the air.  The fourth largest flagpole in the world.  It carried an enormous North Korean flag that weighed 595 lbs.

Soldier of Fortune magazine offered a cash bounty for anyone who could bring back a piece of that flag.

We looked down at the map and mused about doing an “off the books” trip to the flag.  $100,000 was alot of money.  We’d probably get into trouble though.  But maybe we’d be heroes after they booted us out of the Army.

We jumped into the Humvee and drove to “the tunnel.”  It was discovered a couple of years ago.  It was almost big enough to fit a small jeep through.  It had reinforced concrete on all sides.  There were sleeping quarters and a weapons cache.  The North Koreans were able to extend it over a mile into South Korea before it was discovered and plugged up.  There were four known tunnels like this, and many more waiting to be discovered.

On the drive back to base we saw a propaganda balloon in the sky.  We pulled to the side of the road and found some throwing rocks.  After many near misses we popped it and a shower of propaganda leaflets fell littered at our feet.

I picked up one and asked Sgt. Suh to translate it.  It told the story of Kim Jong Il and the great revolution.  Il picked up a pine cone and magically turned it into a grenade which he used to strike at the capitalist Americans.  An artist rendering of Il in a dramatic pose throwing a grenade figured prominently on the leaflet.  Behind him were soldiers surging triumphantly with rifles in hand.

The North Koreans were taught to believe in this.  Another leaflet showed Korean women in sexy outfits and smiling Korean families.  This was all waiting for you in North Korea.  It read… “Long live General Kim Jong-il, pride of the people.”

I grabbed a handful and put them in my pack.

Just another day at the border.