As I walked into the comfortable home upon a hilltop, I’m greeted at the door by a chatty old man, his face, aged with experience, represents a life full of stories.
He welcomes me in and grabs his Navy scrapbook. Once we sit down in the kitchen, he opens the book up and begins to share his story of the time he served in the Korean War. Just before we got started, his wife then entered the room. After offering me a cold drink, she also sat down and started intently listening to the stories her husband would share, politely adding in any details he missed that she had recalled him telling her.
Kenny Dempsey, 85, was drafted into the Navy for the Korean War in 1953, at the age of 23. He served two years of active duty and seven years of reserve. At first he was to become a part of the maintenance crew on deck, but that changed when the photographer in his crew failed to report to duty. Shortly thereafter, he was appointed the new photographer. While this did switch up his plans, he still doesn’t regret his position for he got to use the best camera equipment in the world. In one situation a sub had fired an acoustic torpedo — which follows sound — but instead of hitting the target the torpedo turned around and hit the ship because it was making so much noise. Afterward, Dempsey found himself crawling into the fuel tank, lugging heavy equipment through the narrow chamber and flashing pictures of all the damages from the incident.
Later on in his service, while participating in some secret work, the FBI arrested Dempsey, accusing him of false identification. Dempsey’s real name was John Kenneth Dempsey, but he had put Kenneth John Dempsey down when he first enlisted because he had always been known and called by Kenny. Such a small misunderstanding gave him quite a bit of insight, it showed him the importance of telling the truth and also has led him to believe that because of the many little things the military teaches you, everyone should spend some part of their life serving for our country. Along with the many stories Dempsey told me, he included the ordinary lives of the seamen. These men played many tricks and jokes on each other, they learned to laugh at themselves and take the best out of their situation. Dempsey described the service as not the happiest place to be but still enjoyable. He said you can take away from it whatever you wish, but he chose to always take away the best.
Aidan O’Connor, 16, is a junior at Okanogan High School.