War Remains by Jeffrey Miller is an excellent read. Never having been a history buff due to teachers and professors who made it less than enjoyable for me, I am truly grateful for authors like Mr. Miller who can take me through the Korean War days in a way that attaches it to people and emotions and the reality of how it affected families.
When I think about the title War Remains I asked myself as I was reading it, just what the author had in mind. The title can certainly have multiple meanings. The obvious seems to be that many of our military were left behind in Korea and families were told they were MIA and unless their remains were to be found and identified, that would continue to be their classification. From my research, it appears that we have MIA status for approximately 10,000 of our military. One fifth of those are from Vietnam, and the other four-fifths from the Korean War. Have I ever once given thought about the family members that have been affected in this way? I’m ashamed to say that I don’t think so. War Remainshas touched me in a very special way.
This book led me to research what has been happening for these families. Hence, to me, the title can also mean that this war remains in the hearts of the survivors. Jeffrey Miller’s book will open the hearts and the eyes of those who have lived their lives unaffected by the Korean War. I thank him for that gift. It should also prove as a source of hope for families still waiting to have closure.
Mr. Miller begins his book with the discovery of a footlocker in an attic. This footlocker then finds its way to the son of Sgt. First Class Robert (Bobby) Francis Washkowiak, Ronnie Washkowiak. It contains many letters from Bobby to his wife, Mary, and their infant son, Ronnie. When Bobby heads off to war, it is his small beloved family that keeps him going through his time in Korea. The book uses his many letters, which are then read by Ronnie, and his son, Michael to take us to the time and place when Bobby is writing the letters to his beloved wife. In this way, we see the side of war from the Korean War happenings which the author does a superb job of writing, telling readers about what the GIs in Korea were facing and about the many battles and the fact that the Korean War is called a “forgotten war.” Then we move back to present day, when Bobby’s family is always wondering what happened to their father, grandfather, and husband. Just how long should a young woman with a young son hold out hope for her loved one to return? How long should one wait to accept that your husband has probably been killed? Mr. Miller does a superb job of transitioning back and forth between time frames.
Mr. Miller has very successfully written a story that shines light onto what many American families have experienced. It is a beautiful love story, shown through the many letters from Bobby to Mary. It is a war story, in that we see the Korean War up close and personal, through Bobby and his GI buddies. We see our military heroes returning to the States never knowing what happened to buddies that they had gotten close to during their service to our country. It is not always easy reading when you encounter the Chinese in the rice paddies in the deep of night. But it is encouraging to know that some families have received closure when DNA has been matched to the remains of their loved one.
I highly recommend War Remains to readers…this book has touched me deeply and is sticking with me both in my mind and my heart days after completing it. War Remains is a very impressive first novel for Jeffrey Miller.
Reviewed by: Joyce Gilmour (2011)
Robert "Bobby" Washkowiak battles his way through the bitter first winter of the Korean War, longing for home, his wife, and newborn son. Fifty years later, his son and grandson come across his wartime letters and together, they try to find out what really happened to him on one of the battlefields of that "forgotten war."