A command radio and radar repairman for the U.S. Air Force, Clare Graham was just 20 years old when he found himself stationed near Seoul during the last year of the Korean War. On his rare days off, Clare and his buddies would sometimes drive the 30 miles into Seoul to find ice cream — a nearly unheard-of treat in Korea in 1954.
But one day in April, he decided to stay close to base. He headed out for a walk, and it became a walk he’d never forget.
“I went out walking in the neighborhood and came across what had to have been an orphanage,” says Clare, now in his 80s and long retired from his military service. “There were dozens of kids lined up in front of the building … 3- and 4-year-olds bundled in polka-dot and plaid clothes.” Curious, and captured by their sweet innocence, Clare walked over to them. He had some candy stashed away in his pocket, and handed it out to the children. His friend snapped a photo, forever sealing this moment in his memory.
His heart broke for these children, orphaned and abandoned in the wake of the Korean War. And his wasn’t the only one.
Several years after he returned home from the war, his mother began sponsoring a child through Holt — from Korea.
“My mom used to say, ‘If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right,’” Clare says. In 1973, when his mother passed away, he felt moved to continue supporting the child his mother had sponsored for many years through Holt — continuing the mission that she felt was so worth it.
This began what for Clare and his wife Nancy would become 45 years of child sponsorship — first sponsoring the child his mother had sponsored, then Chil Duk, then Sang. Each one of them a boy living in Korea.
This is an excerpt from a longer story that appeared in Holt’s spring 2018 sponsorship magazine.