Lloyd Erickson, a resident at Lakeside Generations in Dassel, MN, is a proud US Army veteran. He served in active duty from Sept. 19, 1956 to June 28, 1958, and in the reserves until Oct. 31, 1962.
From Kittson County to Korea
Lloyd grew up on a farm in Kittson County in the northwestern corner of Minnesota. He began working full-time on the farm after completing eighth grade.
He was inducted to serve in the Army in Korea in 1956.
After completing a physical in Fargo, Lloyd traveled to Korea by airboat. The journey took three or four days.
Lloyd remembers marching off the boat and stepping into an unfamiliar world.
Life at the 38th Parallel
On July 27, 1953, representatives from the United States, United Nations, North Korea, Korean People’s Army and Chinese People’s Volunteer Army signed the Korean Armistice. Its purpose was to “ensure a complete cessation of hostilities and of all acts of armed force in Korea until a final peaceful settlement is achieved.”
Lloyd was one of many enlisted to maintain peace in the Korean Demilitarized Zone, commonly referred to as the 38th parallel.
War had ravaged Korea and the people Lloyd encountered lived in abject poverty.
“I couldn’t believe what they were living through: no bathrooms, no nothing,” Lloyd says. “It was interesting to see how poor it was there.”
He remembers watching North Koreans cross the border into South Korea.
“They tried sneaking across all the time,” Lloyd says. “If they could get across without getting shot or killed or whatever, they wanted to be on our side, but they didn’t have no food, no nothing. It was about survival.”
Lloyd and other members of the military had strict orders not to fire their weapons. Doing so would violate the ceasefire all parties agreed to when they signed the armistice.
“We weren’t supposed to fire any rifles because we didn’t want to start another war,” Lloyd says.
Lloyd drove a tank that he and others operated and protected. Tensions grew when individuals approached the tank.
“The first thing was grab your rifle and protect the tank and find out what they’re doing,” Lloyd says.
He says he is thankful he never had to fire his rifle.
Other events kept Lloyd on his toes. At one point, a fire broke out in a tank and spread to other tanks before troops extinguished it.
“Everybody was pretty nervous,” Lloyd says.
Some soldiers got more involved than others did and some sustained injuries.
Lloyd also encountered a tiger.
“As we were on the tank, a darn tiger growled and everybody jumped off the tank scared,” Lloyd says. “He jumped back on our side and ran into the bush and we never saw any more of him.”
“Lloyd received an honorable discharge and the good conduct medal,” his wife, Lori, says. “His superiors had said he was very responsible. He did what he had to do and served without complaining.”
After his time in the service, Lloyd returned to the family farm. He remembers working on roads after a tornado damaged the area.
He joined a road building crew until winter and then guarded the road so no one drove on it until spring.
“Lloyd successfully returned home, found a job, got married and raised his family,” Lori says.
Lloyd is proud of serving his country but doesn’t discuss it much, Lori says. But, when someone sees him wearing his Korea Veteran hat and thanks him for his service, his smile says it all.