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All is calm, all is bright

Tens of thousands of Korean War veterans live in the Tampa Bay area. A few agreed to share their recollections with the Times.

By ADRIENNE LU, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 24, 2003

It was an unusually warm Christmas Eve in Masan, South Korea, as Bob Mills, a case of American beer tucked under his arm, headed to see his Tampa buddies in the 10th Amtrac Battalion of the Marine Corps Reserves.

He arrived just as eight Korean schoolchildren, maybe 10 or 11 years old, and their teacher walked up.

They were carrying homemade paper lanterns of different colors, lit with flickering candles. They started singing. One by one, the Marines crept out of their tents to watch.

"It was very quiet and they listened very intently," Mills said.

Silent night, Holy night

All is calm all is bright

'Round yon virgin Mother and Child

Holy infant so tender and mild

Sleep in heavenly peace.

Sleep in heavenly peace.

"I thought that was real beautiful of them to do that for us," recalled Mills, now 75 and living in Tampa. "It did give me a homey feeling."

Christmas Eve 1950 was the first time Mills had close contact with any Koreans.

When the children finished singing, the Marines clapped and thanked them.

"There was nothing we could give them," Mills said. "We didn't have any candy left."

The children went on their way, to the next group of tents, to sing again.

It was just one song, but it was enough for the Marines.

"They sat down to a nice, quiet evening," said Mills, a reservist who served as a motion picture cameraman in Korea. He wasn't working that night, but the memory remains imprinted on his mind.

"It was very touching. We were there in Korea on Christmas Eve, away from home, and of course this brought a touch of home, even for tough Marines."

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