Fred Watson – Faith Helps Him Through Korean War Memories
Fred Watson saw his body floating and transparent. He felt if his spirit floated through the ceiling he would not come back. He credits the return of it to the prayers of his wife, Rebecca. A year and a half ago he had a serious leg infection and several operations. He experienced an “out of body experience” and he is thankful to his wife for her fervent supplications and for reading Psalms 91 and 103 aloud to him as he straddled two dimensions. The next day, he was sitting up and eating and he felt the Lord letting him know what had happened and that “someone would pray me back”.
Fred Watson was born on September 19, 1928 in McKinney, Texas. He enlisted in the Marine Corps on March 4, 1952. He did his basic training in Camp Pendleton, California and was assigned to the 9th Marine Corps, 3rd Marine Division. He was then shipped out to Nagoya, Japan. Fred and “seven other men were picked for a special assignment.” They would be dropped into Korea close to the DMZ. Their mission was to “look for enemy troop convoys of tanks and personnel and stop them as best they could.” Fred was to carry an “M18 57mm recoilless rifle” and “part of his platoon would help carry the ammunition.” After only one month in combat, Fred was “walking down a road and stepped on landmine called a ‘Bouncing Bettie’.” The Bouncing Bettie had a great psychological effect on U.S. and South Korean forces because of its tendency to seriously maim, rather than kill, the soldier. He was wounded and airlifted to a MASH unit where they “patched him up and sent him to a hospital in Yokosuka, Japan” where he would spend several months recovering. The Navy Hospital received its first Navy Unit Commendation for treatment of over 5,800 casualties from the Korean War. Fred was released from active duty on February 28, 1954.
Fred and his first wife Thelma were married almost 50 years. She passed away almost 19 years ago. He worked for Ben E. Keith Wholesale Food Distributer and delivered to 18 United Grocery Stores.
Fred has lived at a nursing home in Lubbock for 2-1/2 years and his eyes darken with emotion as he recounts how his wife had to work with him in “baby steps” to help him face his fears of the past and the sometimes very dark times of his military service which has led him to a place of lasting peace of mind and peace with his Creator.
Before he went on the 2013 South Plains Honor Flight, he got to visit Washington but it proved a very painful experience for him and he needed much reassurance as he came face to face with the eyes looking back at him in the statues and symbols of wartime past. His body literally froze in place as he looked at the Vietnam Memorial from a distance and he said some women visiting there (including his future wife) gently held his hand and prayed for him and eventually he was able to approach the wall and walk the length of it. Another time at the Marine Museum he physically could not watch the video and Rebecca helped walk him out and supported his decision. He “white knuckled it” at the movie Pearl Harbor when it showed in civilian theatres as he remembered the tragedy of losing a platoon battle buddy. Years later he was able to go on the Honor Flight and he smiles as he describes the Vietnam Memorial, now his favorite. After forgiving himself and all that happened in earlier times, he was finally able to actually enjoy the tour of memorials and the healthy banter and camaraderie with other veterans.
This interview time with volunteers from the Texas South Plains Honor Flight proved to be a positive experience for both Fred and Rebecca. They married later in life on June 1, 2002 in a backyard ceremony in Wolfforth after meeting at church and being friends for six years. The song, “In the Garden” was played at their wedding and they have both tried to encourage each other in their walk with the Lord. They both express deep grateful hearts for all the bad and the good events that have brought them closer to each other and to the Lord. They have four children, nine grand and six great grands.
He is finally interested in the possibility of having some of his lost military medals restored to him, as that time in his life has taken on a positive light now and he has experienced many levels of healing both physically and emotionally. He encourages us and the younger generation to get involved. To join the military. “If something happens you won’t run away.” With the help of his faith, his wife and his friends, Fred no longer feels like he needs to “run away.”
Respectfully submitted by,
Katherine Mclamore and Larry A. Williams
Veterans Liaison Co-Chairs
Texas South Plains Honor Flight