Tuesday, April 14, 2009
The name on the cross says Lee Bumrok. His age has been worn thin. I didn’t know anything about him accept that he was a casualty of war.
But, with a simple internet search he came alive.
I saw his face and read his story.
His name is actually Bumrok Lee. He moved to the United States with his family from South Korea when he was 4 years old. He grew up in Cupertino, just outside of San Jose, Calif. He died at age 21 on June 2, 2004 after suffering injuries from a car-bomb in Iraq while serving as a corporal in the U.S. Marines Corps.
I found out that he was raised mostly by his sister, Elis, while both of his parents worked full time and that he joined the service so he could later go to college and help support his family. He and his girlfriend, who he had known since junior high, joined the military at the same time.
An article on SFGate.com tells that his girlfriend, Sakura Dao Pham, was an Army Reserve medic in Baghdad at the time of his death. After being wounded on May 29, 2004, he was sent to her hospital, but she wasn’t on duty. She didn’t find out he was there until four days later, after he died.
Her blog reads:
“It hurt so bad to find out you were critically injured and stayed in intensive care for four days at the 31st CSH. Everyday I visit and take care of other wounded soldiers, but I never would have thought that I would not be able to do that for you. How can God not let me see you and take care of you for the last time? But in my heart I know you wished for me not to see you hurt like that.”
He is one of more than 4,000 military men and women who have died in the war in Iraq. On the day I photographed his cross, I was focusing on the hand pulling flowers from the ground and the vast number of crosses on display in Arlington South last month on Naples Beach.
Lee has connected people in his death. Message boards dedicated to him are full of notes from people with shared experience and loss.
He ended up on Naples beach. And now, he is connected to me and to you. No longer anonymous in a sea of names.