Arnold Lyshall, 87, of Seattle, still vividly remembers the hardship of Korea and the lives lost there.

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It should pain anyone to look at the vast stretches of grave markers at Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent. Some people feel the pain especially deeply because they loved someone who is buried there, or because they witnessed war’s slaughter.

Arnold Lyshall has seen those markers grow war after war and knows the loss they signify. Lyshall, 87, fought in the 1950 Battle of Chosin Reservoir, in which 30,000 United Nations troops were surrounded and attacked by 120,000 Chinese soldiers who poured into North Korea just as it seemed the U.N. forces would win the war.

The U.N. forces suffered 10,000 casualties in two weeks as they fought their way out of what seemed an impossible situation during Korea’s worst winter storm in a century.

Lyshall learned perseverance — that sometimes you just keep going because the alternatives are unacceptable. But he also saw that sometimes everything you can do isn’t enough. A lot of good people didn’t come home.

He’s attended many memorials over the years, but this year, as Memorial Day approached, he was feeling low. Talking to someone about his experiences made him feel better, which may be one reason we have memorials.

Lyshall was a student at Seattle’s Franklin High School while World War II raged, and because of the labor shortage, students would go down to Pier 91 and help unload ships and boxcars. He saw servicemen leaving on ships, and when he was a junior, he decided he would join the Marines. The war was over, soldiers who’d fought needed replacements so they could come home, so he joined on Nov. 27, 1945.

He served during the occupation in Japan and was stationed in China for a time before coming home in 1948. He got a job in a warehouse, joined the Reserves, met a girl, and four months after they married, he was called back to fight in the Korean conflict.

His first day in combat, Lyshall’s unit was walking down a road when shots whistled overhead. The shots got lower and Marines started diving for cover. Lyshall jumped into a ditch. “I landed on top of two dead Chinese soldiers,” he said, and he was looking directly into their eyes.

The temperature in the mountains was as low as 35 degrees below zero, guns were sometimes too cold to work, food was frozen, sleep brief and infrequent — Lyshall ate gumdrops and frozen canned fruit. They marched and fought.

One of his men collapsed and Lyshall told him, “You’re either going to have to get up or you’re going to freeze or the Chinese are going to get you.”

Later he said, “I was starting to burn out, but I said to myself, ‘I can’t, I’m a sergeant.’ ” He was only 21. He started singing to himself his aunt’s favorite hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” and he heard “my aunt in her broken Norwegian singing to me.” He said he even heard angels’ voices singing.

When he finally got to lie down, he slept through a barrage of bullets that tore apart a carbine next to him.

The U.N. troops fought their way out, 275 miles in 13 days over a single road. Lyshall said that when his unit reached the area where Fox Company was holding the road open, “I saw 30 to 40 young guys lying there.” There hadn’t been time to bury them, and the sight unsettled him.

Like the Chinese soldiers, that sight was hard to shake. But the image that keeps coming back when he’s struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder is of a young corpsman he’d talked with one morning. That afternoon, Lyshall was watching the corpsman taking off his parka to put it on a wounded man when a sniper shot the corpsman.

“He was such a neat, young guy,” Lyshall said.

Lyshall made it back to Seattle, to his wife, Winnie, and to his warehouse job. He studied commercial art, then worked 30 years as an illustrator for Boeing. They raised two children.

Still, sometimes a loud noise or a stranger suddenly talking on a cellphone too close behind him puts his mind back in a state suited for battle. He’s been leery of memorials since Winnie died two years ago, but this year he may go.

And he plans to attend a veterans gathering of the Chosin Few in San Diego this August, because sometimes sharing stories helps keep the pain in check.