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Conyers resident saw fierce combat in 'Forgotten War'

Medals and other mementos from John Meyers' military service are displayed in this frame. Among them are a Bronze Star, Good Conduct Ribbon, a Combat Infantry Badge, and a Bible with a metal case that he kept in his breast pocket "in case I got it." -- Special Photo

Medals and other mementos from John Meyers' military service are displayed in this frame. Among them are a Bronze Star, Good Conduct Ribbon, a Combat Infantry Badge, and a Bible with a metal case that he kept in his breast pocket "in case I got it." -- Special Photo

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John Meyers and his wife Kathy were married on June 1, 1957. Meyers is an avid golfer who had four holes in one last year at Honey Creek golf club. -- Special Photo

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This photo of John Meyers was taken sometime between April 1951 and February 1952. Meyers said the cap was Army-issue to help keep out the bitter Korean cold. -- Special Photo

In Feb, 1987, the business section of the Rockdale Citizen featured John Meyers upon his appointment as general manager of the Automotive Merchandising Corporation (AMC) after his retirement from General Motors where he served 23 years in the field of labor relations.

On March 15, 1989, Meyers received front page coverage when hired as Rockdale County's first director of personnel.

Then on June 12, 2011, his lifelong passion for golf was featured on the front page of the Sports section. He easily scores his own age, 83, and holds a hard-to-match record of seven holes-in-one, three of which came within 68 days on the Honey Creek Golf Course. His one and only round at Augusta National posted a very respectable 85.

An active member of St. Pius X Catholic Church, a volunteer worker for Meals on Wheels, the Rockdale County Literacy Program, and the Refuge Crisis Pregnancy Center, plus involvement in a dozen other community activities, few if any of his coworkers and friends ever realized that Meyers is a combat veteran of America's Forgotten War: Korea.

Drafted in 1950, his father comforted his son by saying, "You'll do all right, John, you always do." A native of Iron Mountain, Mich., Meyers received basic training at Camp Atterbury, Ind., before deployment via Liberty Ship to Pusan, South Korea.

"From Pusan we took a rickety troop train to the South Korean Capital of Seoul," he said. "I stood guard duty on the train with an M-1 rifle, but they never issued me bullets. I was a bit worried about that since we were in a war zone."

April in South Korea ain't springtime.

"We were issued summer sleeping bags in zero weather," Meyers said. "My back would freeze to the bag."

Again, placed on guard duty in the middle of the night with an M-1 and no bullets, Meyers said, "We were on the Imjin River. I could hear the ripples, and thought the enemy was swimming across. I saw rocks and bushes across the river that looked like soldiers or weapons or even horses, and there I was with no bullets."

Moved up to the front lines for combat, Meyers was finally issued his bullets. He would need them.

His unit, Company I, 7th Infantry, 3rd Division was in a continuous combat-mode.

"It was a meat grinder," Meyers said. "You're sniped at, dodging mortars, artillery, and small arms fire. I had an M-1 Carbine by then with a 30 round banana clip. On the front lines in Korea you needed as much ammunition as possible."

Decapitations, missing limbs, no-quarter war (take no prisoners) became a normal day, if such an environment can be called normal. South Korean allies screaming, "Etai, Etai," (it hurts) or like the G.I.s, begging for their mother, was another battlefield norm.

Luckily, within a few weeks Meyers was sent to company headquarters to serve as the company clerk for personnel, grave registrations, and other administrative duties. Not a day too soon. On April 25, 1951, the North Koreans overran the forward positions, forcing Meyers and Company I into a strategic withdrawal. The combat was ferocious, a hand-to-hand, kill or be killed, type of ground warfare.

A total massacre of the Americans was avoided because of the heroics of a young corporal named Charles L. Gilliland. Gilliland was the BAR man (Browning Automatic Rifle). Alone and vastly outnumbered, Gilliland maintained his position and continued to pour a steady stream of fire into the advancing enemy. His bravery allowed the retreating Americans enough time to save themselves and regroup. Two enemy soldiers penetrated Gilliland's position, but the young corporal leaped from his position and killed them with his pistol. Seriously wounded in the head during this daring exploit, Gilliland returned to his emplacement and continued to fight off enemy soldiers. As the Americans regrouped and settled into a defensive position, Cpl. Gilliland's BAR fell silent. His body was never recovered.

Meyers was selected to write up Gilliland's valiant defensive for a much-deserved decoration.

"I was ordered to investigate the incident, talk to the survivors, then write the best possible recommendation for Cpl. Gilliland," Meyers recalled. Seventeen-year-old Cpl. Charles L. Gilliland became the youngest soldier in the United States Army to be awarded the nation's highest decoration, the Congressional Medal of Honor.

"I still communicate weekly via email with his sister, Pauline Mears, who lives in Arkansas," Meyers said. "After all these years, Cpl. Gilliland's family seeks closure. It is horrible to lose someone you love in a war, but it's mentally catastrophic when a loved one becomes an indefinite missing in action statistic."

A company normally consists of 144 men. During Meyers' tour of duty, with the patched-up wounded sent back into action, with the rotations and replacements piling in and out, Company I suffered 149 wounded and 49 killed, a casualty rate of approximately 100 percent. A comprehensive story of John B. Meyers can be found in his book, "The Meyers Chronicles." Welcome home, John.