Sherman Coslett Jr. served his country in the US Army during the Korean War from 1951 to 1953. Born in Battle Creek, Michigan, Mr. Coslett enlisted in the Army Reserves in 1950. He was sent to basic training in Cheyenne, Wyoming, then shipped to Korea.
Private Coslett witnessed horrific economic times, which only war can bring. He was in Incheon when he got his wallet stolen by a young boy. Private Coslett bargained with the boy through hand signals and negotiated some candy. “I had four young siblings at home and felt bad for the kid,” he recalled.
Private Coslett began his military work translating documents, sending communications, even working the switchboard at night. “I did whatever was needed to do,” he said.
With the thought of his young siblings and the pain of being away from his family, Private Coslett also began working at a local orphanage and medical clinic in Pusan, which was run by a nun, Sister Madeline. He recalled her as “a warm feast in a very cold forest…she was absolutely fearless…had a heart of gold…compassionate beyond words and a genuine passion for children…always there for the kids.”
He also had great praise for the nuns who worked in the orphanage. “We had a lot of burn cases because it was so cold in the winter, the kids would burn fires to stay warm…when they didn’t pay attention and got too close, they got burned badly…the nuns would care for them… you can never understand what they did for those kids…amazing work they did,” he remembered.
Private Coslett committed himself to helping children at the orphanage in his spare time. He worked as a counselor, dressed up as a clown and read bedtime stories. “I was a little like the Jolly Green Giant, I guess” he said, laughing. Private Coslett said the keys to getting along with the children included “trust…they had to feel they could trust you…many of the children had suffered physical and sexual abuse…I could tell you stories that would make your stomach turn…I hated mankind for a long time…things that adults would do to kids…got drunk one night and went with a buddy looking for the village that these kids came from…we were locked and loaded…MPs got us before we reached the village.”
Entertainment was sparse during his time in Pusan, as well. “The only entertainer I ever saw was Vic Damone. Holidays? “I was Santa at the orphanage…took a little sting out of being away from my family,” he remembered.
Private Coslett also recalled the deplorable conditions. “In the barracks, the rats would walk on the rafters at night. Sometimes, they would fall right into your bed. You had to learn to sleep with your blanket over your head (a habit he has never lost even at 88 years of age),” he said.
He also has this memory: “My last day at the orphanage…as I was leaving…got about 50 feet…this little kid I nicknamed T.J. kept yelling my name…‘Sherm…Sherm’…top of his lungs…took my hand and led me back to the front of the orphanage…Sister Madeline had assembled all the children and they sang my favorite song, ‘Oh My Papa’….kids crowded around me and hugged me and I bawled like a goddamn baby…couldn’t look back…just kept walking as they continued to shout my name…toughest thing I’ve ever had to do…never forget that moment.”
At 88 he still enjoys a slow nine holes of golf and is surrounded by his three children and six grandchildren, who live close by in Bourne.
Private Sherman Coslett Jr., thank you for your service to our great country.
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