Dale Shanks’ eyes tear up as his finger tips tap his knee.
It happens when he talks about his time on the front lines in Korea back in 1952.
Those memories are a little more frequent for the Baxter resident now that North Korea vows to end the cease-fire that has been in place there.
North Korea: The place where Shanks almost died after his military vehicle rolled down a rocky hill. The land where he saw soldiers, friends, bleed to death.
The country he suspects his grandson, a Marine, is being deployed to.
The Korean War veteran isn’t surprised about the current trouble with the country.
“It was supposed to be over in 53’, but it seems like people have been killed over there every other month since,” he said.
This time, however, stakes are a bit higher, he says, because nuclear weapons are in the mix.
Shanks was 20 years old when he and 10 other friends joined the Navy.
It was November 1950, just months after the war began. Shanks felt a patriotic push to sign on.
“We just figured we should,” he said, wrapping his fingers around a wooden cane.
Fresh out of boot camp and corps school, Shanks chose a hospital in Philadelphia, where he could continue his medical training.
There, he served nine months in different surgery wards.
Shanks was then sent to a camp in California. It was March 1952 and he and a group of about 100 Navy men were about to ship out.
The group spent two weeks crossing the ocean to Japan. Next stop: Korea.
Shanks and his fellow military men moved inland and were now on the front lines of the war.
Some of those days are still blanked out for Shanks. Bits and pieces of memories come back every once in a while to the now 82-year-old.
“Those were hair-raising nights,” he said of his time doing night patrol.
One June day in 1952, Shanks was in a convoy, headed up a mountain when the driver of his vehicle fell asleep behind the wheel. The truck rolled over a cliff and landed on rocks.
Shanks smashed his pelvis and slammed his head on the stones.
He spent 36 days in the surgery ward. A scar line across his wrinkled forehead can still be spotted from the 36 stitches.
He’s on disability for headaches and still suffers from arthritis of the spine and joints.
Shanks eventually ended up back in the U.S. to finish his recovery. He would never see the shores of Korea again.
Instead, he served 18 months aboard a ship in January 1953 in the treatment room, as the naval carrier sailed across the Mediterranean.
The next year, Shanks would be granted his request of shore duty.
Today, Shanks blames the North Korean and U.S. leadership for the current tensions.
“I doubt it will ever be solved,” he said. “Not with this president.”
He’s upset that a cause he fought for is still a heated battle. That it’s still resulting in deaths.
Shanks may not remember every day in Korea, “but you remember those patrols,” he said. “I remember those casualties.”