ANOTHER FIRST --- Dick Cho,
no mean athlete himself and the first student athletic trainer
in Boys Town history, tapes a player's ankle.
By FRED THOMAS
North American Newspaper Alliance
A FOOTLESS KOREAN ORPHAN, whose boyhood years
were a nightmare of loneliness and suffering, will have his finest
hour this month. He will become a U.S. citizen. When little Song
Yong Cho (that was his name then) was plucked from the rubble of
Korea 7½ years ago he faced starvation. This spring he will be
graduated from Boys Town High School, Boys Town, Neb.
When he filed his first citizenship papers, young
Cho exchanged Song Yong for Richard Douglas in honor of the two
U.S. soldiers who helped give him a start toward a new life.
Almost blotted out is the memory of his Christmas
season ordeal of 1950. As far as is known, Cho's family was wiped
out in the evacuation of Seoul in December, 1950. Somehow, 9 year
old Song Yong made his way to Pusan.
Suffering from severe frostbite, Cho had to have
both feet amputated. But he courageously tried to eke out a living,
pulling his sore-covered body around the railroad station to shine
shoes for American servicemen.
THIS WAS HIS CONDITION when Sgt. Harold J. Douglas
of Hattiesburg, Miss., befriended him. Douglas worked with Sgt.
Richard Gormanson, Tacoma, Wash., and Capt. James N. Calway, San
Francisco, to fit Cho with artificial feet. Capt. Calway commanded
the First Artificial Limb and Brace Detachment of the prosthetic
unit with the 14th Field Hospital near Pusan.
Father of seven, Sgt. Douglas felt it impossible
to consider adoption. So he wrote Boys Town and in May of 1953
Cho started anew in Father Flanagan's famous city of little men
west of Omaha.
Cho faced a terrifying task. He knew no English
and never had been to school. But his new brothers started immediately
to help him. As Cho slept his first night at Boys Town, two lads
crept up to his bed and slipped two of their favorite cowboy guns
under his pillow.
With special tutoring, Cho progressed rapidly
and soon entered the proper grade for children his age. He became
so adept with his artificial feet that he joined the school's intramural
sports teams. It was a heart-warming sight to watch the youngster
scoop up ground balls around second base amid his teammates' cries
of "Let's go, Cho."
CHO EARNED HIS EAGLE Badge, highest honor in
the Boy Scouts. But even his scout leaders were astonished at a
request he made in 1956: Cho wanted to take tests for a merit badge
in lifesaving. Scoutmen tried to discourage him. They pointed
out it was doubtful that a footless boy could learn the basic swimming
requirements, and it was highly improbable that he could master
the actual lifesaving tests.
Cho developed into an excellent swimmer, and
quickly learned to retrieve a weight from the bottom of the pool
and a "drowning" person from the same place. Then came the final
test. Cho was required to stand fully dressed on shore and at a
signal, disrobe and swim to a "drowning" person in less than one
At first it took Cho more than a minute to remove
his artificial feet alone. But hours of practice paid off for,
on an early July day, the youngster removed his clothes and artificial
feet and raced through the water to a "victim" in 30 seconds.
That hurdle overcome, Cho turned to overnight
cookouts and hikes. Once again he astonished his leaders and friends
with a 15 mile trek through rugged terrain.
CHO'S LATEST ACTIVITIES have been playing drum
in the high school band and serving as student athletic trainer,
the first in Boys Town history. With case worker Joe Stenard, Cho
is studying his citizenship requirements and planning his future
after graduation. The 18 year old is interested in attending college
but his counselors are somewhat reluctant to encourage him.
"Cho is intelligent and studies hard," Stenard
explains. "But he has crammed all his schooling into about six
years. He might just get lost in the shuffle in college." No one,
however, underestimates Cho's determination.
When asked in 195x what he liked most about America,
Richard Douglas Cho answered: "The chance for me to have an education."