Veteran Ellison shares thank you cards from students

Posted 2/3/22

Imagine his delight when local veteran Lloyd Ellison received cards thanking him for his service from Korean school children living in the United States.

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Veteran Ellison shares thank you cards from students

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OKEECHOBEE — Imagine his delight when local veteran Lloyd Ellison received cards thanking him for his service from Korean school children living in the United States.

Born and raised in South Carolina, Ellison volunteered to serve in the Army. “I dropped out of high school and joined the Army which was dumb, but it got me a college education in the end,” he said.

Basic training was at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. “After that, I had two choices, I could either go in engineers or I could walk the Unknown Soldiers tomb post.” He went on to explain that in order to be assigned to that post, you had to be a certain height and weight. “I saw what they went through, and I knew I couldn’t live that life. They get a pin, and if they ever get in trouble, even on furlough or after they retire, any time, for the rest of their life, they lose that pin.” He said they have a very high standard to live up to and cannot have even a traffic ticket. “They have to walk the post even if there is a hurricane. One time, they told them they don’t have to walk, but they said, ‘no, we will.’ They take it very serious.”

He chose engineering and was stationed in Oklahoma but was soon shipped out to the Marshall Islands in 1949. “We finished that project ahead of time. They did a lot of tests down there with atomic bombs, and our job was to clean up the mess they left behind. There were ships and planes everywhere that were wrecked. We had to clean all that up.”

In June 1950, a war broke out. “It made it quite convenient, because we had a battalion commander who wanted to be a general. We went to Tokyo right away when North Korea invaded South Korea. He volunteered us.” They stayed 30 days in Japan, and then were sent to North Korea, Hungnam Harbor. “We lost a lot of men in the trap at Chosin Reservoir, and I now have an untreatable disease —inclusion body myositis which means all your muscles are gone.”

“It was so cold in North Korea that we lost 5,000 men just to the cold, and the Chinese lost close to 50,000 men.”

Ellison’s battalion was put in charge of the port in order to ship everything out. “Everybody was leaving, because the Chinese were coming. The only thing that saved us was the USS Missouri was there and several aircraft carriers. They would fly around the clock, dropping napalm in the mountains. We were some of the last to leave, because we blew the harbor up. We destroyed all the usable equipment and the food, because when the Chinese would overrun an outpost, they were starving. Their soldiers were supposed to live off the land, but in the mountains, there ain’t no food. There might be a few farms with pigs or cows, but they aren’t going to feed 2,000 people. When they came in, they weren’t interested in you. They couldn’t have taken care of you if they wanted to. They were looking for food.”

The 65th Regiment, 3rd Division was the very last to leave. “They pulled rear guard duty for us and got the least credit. They were the last line between us and the Chinese. They were all Puerto Ricans. They didn’t leave us. They could really hang in there.” The 79th Engineer Construction Battalion was the last unit to be evacuated from the port, with the exception of the 3rd Infantry Division. For their part in the operation, they were awarded the Syungman Rhee Presidential Unit Citation.

The battalion went to Pusan, also spelled Busan, after leaving North Korea. “We were just there for support.” They traveled up the peninsula. In April 1951, Ellison was hit by friendly fire and his leg was damaged. Ellison was a squad leader, on guard duty on a 50 caliber machine gun. “I was number one gunner. There were five of us up there, and this guy wanted to come up and sleep with us. We said okay, and I was sitting in a fox hole near the gun. I didn’t know he had laid his rifle down on the berm. His rifle went off and went right through my leg. I fell down into the foxhole. A big guy pulled me up out of the fox hole, and they gave me a morphine shot. In about five minutes, you could have cut that leg off, and I wouldn’t have cared. It blew the bone out of my leg.” They sent him to Fort Bragg, because they have the best orthopedic doctors, he explained.

“I stayed in the hospital a year getting that straightened out.” This was where he got to know Mary, the woman who later became his wife. “He was all fancy and nice and sweet,” she said. “I thought, oh boy. I’d look nice with a soldier.”

He had actually seen her before he left to go in the service and told friends, “She’s going to be a good one someday.” She was only 13 at that time and was 17 when he got back.

They got married and had two sons and now have three grandchildren. One of the grandsons was a Marine sent to Afghanistan and now works for an engineering firm in Alabama. In March, the couple will celebrate 70 years of marriage.

After working for someone else for years, Ellison founded his own company in Jupiter in 1972. After he retired, his sons continued working there even after it was purchased by another company.

A few weeks ago, Ellison received two cards in the mail from young Korean children living in the United States. The cards were thanking him for being a friend to Korea. “It really meant a lot to me. I didn’t know they felt that way.”

“Going into the service was the best thing I ever did,” he said.

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