Sacred Site – Throwback Thursday

IMG_6795Have you ever walked on ground that made feel a little spooked? Or perhaps you got the feeling that you were being watched. I have experienced these feelings on the Border between North Korea and South Korea, which is referred to as the DMZ. I was doing combat patrols along the DMZ while serving in the U.S. Army. Once when I was acting as point man for our patrol team, I came across burial mounds. I halted the patrol and our assistant patrol leader; Brett Pew came up to my location to analyze how to go around this sacred site. In Korea the dead are traditionally buried under mounds standing upright in specially made coffins made with six planks of wood. The fact that the corpses face south did not go unnoticed by me and the irony of this situation created made me mindful of just how serious the mission was. We maneuvered around the burial mounds partially out of respect but also out of fear of minefields, David Rivas are Korean cultural expert and Veteran of many Combat patrols on the DMZ briefed us on the danger of walking through the mounds.

David Rivas, DMZ expert

David Rivas, DMZ expert

After we moved around the sacred site and laid out for the night ambush, I glanced back at the mounds and the illumination from the moon made them appear even more ominous. After returning from our patrol and being debriefed I talked with Brett Pew and David Rivas-Cortez in more detail about how these mounds gave me a weird feeling and they both agreed with me. When our 90 days on the DMZ was up I sought out our base barber Ms. Choi in order to learn more about Korean culture and burial customs. Ms. Choi explained that the reason that I felt uneasy about walking through that burial site on the DMZ was that there were no children of the deceased to honor the burial mounds, which is customary in Korean culture.

IMG_2093Ms. Choi and I made arrangements and went to a Buddhist Temple south of the Korean Border and made offerings in honor of those that are buried in the DMZ and have no one to memorialize them.