Letters from Korea with love

2013-09-28T22:30:00Z 2013-11-08T19:08:05Z Letters from Korea with loveDeborah Laverty deborah.laverty@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2223 nwitimes.com

Third in a series of articles about those who served in the Korean War, which ended 60 years ago.

Carmen Foresta, 88, has kept hundreds of love letters sent to him while he served in the Korean War more than 60 years ago.

The letters, sent to him from a young, fellow Italian-American woman he hadn't met at the time, led to their getting married after Foresta returned on a leave to the United States.

"Through the letters, we got to know each other and even fell in love," Foresta said.

He returned to the United States on leave in the fall of 1952, and the pair was married two weeks later.

"I asked her to marry me, and when she saw me she jumped in my arms and kissed me," Foresta recalled.

Foresta's eyes well up when talking about his late wife, Phyllis, with whom he raised six children in their Dolton home.

The two were married for nearly 40 years before her death in 1991. 

Foresta still keeps in his wallet the high school graduation photo showing the smiling, dark-haired woman he fell in love with, before ever meeting her in person.

That black and white photo, weathered with age, was the one she sent to him while Foresta was stationed in Korea.

Fate, and her admiration for his service to his country, must have brought the two together, Foresta said.

"Years later, we learned that my wife, who was seven years younger than me, had lived across the street from where I was born in the Grand Crossing section of Chicago," he said.

Foresta, a World War II veteran, said it was his passion about the events in Korea that led to his signing up for that war as well.

Foresta said he and some buddies were watching  TV in a tavern in Chicago's Burnside neighborhood. The news bulletin relayed how the Chinese had joined with the North Koreans and had crossed into South Korea.

"My buddies and I screamed and called them names, and all eight of us decided to re-enlist. We were there to sign up the next morning," he said.

Foresta said he was in the front lines in the Korean War in late 1951 after going through training for the mountains in that country.

Foresta, who served with the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division, recalls a near-death experience after Jeeps carrying food rations arrived in his camp.

"We were eating, and I heard an explosion followed by a second explosion three minutes later," Foresta said.

After hearing another explosion behind them, everyone hit the ground.

"I heard a bang, then saw a big red flash and fell to the ground like a turtle," Foresta said.

Just inches away from where he had flattened his body, there remained an indentation from where the shell had fallen.

"If I had been standing up, part of the shell would have blown my head off," Foresta said.

In addition to love letters and photos, Foresta has also kept paperwork from when he enlisted and discharged as well as commendations he received.

One of those commendations was sent to him almost five decades later -- in June 2000 -- by South Korean President Kim Dae Jung.

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