As he watched the Korean students present aspects of their culture, McCarthy said he was “blown away” by what he was seeing.
“I never thought they would ever get to this,” he said.
McCarthy, who served for two years in South Korea during the war, recalls a country where entire portions were “flat-out leveled. Every intersection had a machine-gun bunker,” he said.
“In the war, you’d look in their eyes and know they were hurting,” McCarthy said. “They’d see you and smile, and that smile told you all you needed to know.”
While McCarthy admitted that he has spent the decades since the conflict struggling over its purpose, he said, “Now when I talk to these young people ... the looks in their faces, they’re full of hope. There’s nothing they can’t do.”
“The thing that impresses the hell out of me is the smile, the openness. There is no fear. There is only hope, just openness. And I thought, damn, it was worth it.”