Villager recounts tale of saving infant’s life while on duty in S. Korea, a baby that later became his daughter
Posted: Monday, October 31, 2011 8:00 am
By Livi Stanford, Daily Sun
THE VILLAGES — Something had moved in the tall grass alerting 1st Lt. Col. Herb Boyce immediately.
The resident of The Villages was on a search and destroy mission with the Korean Army in a small village about 40 miles outside of Chun Chon, South Korea, in October 1968.
The North Korean infiltrators, Boyce explained, pointing to the loss of life including livestock, had destroyed everything in the village.
Little did Boyce know that what he would he would find in the grass would change his life forever.
Drawing his .45 caliber pistol for protection, Boyce slowly walked over to discover a tiny baby girl wrapped in a threadbare blanket.
“She was ice cold,” Boyce said of the baby girl, tears filling his green eyes. “I wrapped her up in a field jacket and called for a helicopter.”
The baby was holding on for dear life, Boyce remembered, as she was dehydrated and had not developed a sucking reflex.
In his book titled “Land of the Morning Calm,” Boyce described the baby girl and just how fragile she was.
“As I gingerly lifted the infant; it emitted a fully body shudder,” he wrote. “The tattered blue blanket fell away revealing that the baby’s umbilical cord was still attached.”
The baby weighed less than 3 pounds, Boyce remembered, sitting at the kitchen table of his home.
Immediately, he said it was a race to save the baby’s life because he understood the challenges that would arise getting the medical aid she would need on an Army base, where such aid was difficult to find.
One of the first calls Boyce made was to his wife, who was a Canadian nurse at a hospital near the Army base.
When she appeared at the base, she was shocked to see the baby in such a state, Boyce said.
A three-month-long fight
It then became a three-month-long fight to save the infant’s life, he said.
“We had to bring up her birth weight,” he said. “There was no incubator.”
And the baby who would later be named Wendy was declining fast.
“What my wife did is take a terry cloth bathrobe and put the baby up against her bare skin, pulling the bathrobe over her, (staying) next to a space heater to keep the baby warm.” It was a difficult period for the couple and Boyce still gets emotional speaking about it. “She was so dehydrated,” he said of Wendy. “You would pinch the skin and it would not go back and she was allergic to anything that had milk in it.”
It was heart wrenching for Boyce, who was worried she would not pull through.
At first, Boyce said they gave Wendy distilled water and honey out of an eye dropper before resorting to tiny baby bottles, which they filled with soybean milk formula the baby could tolerate.
Three months later, Boyce said they were able to get the baby’s weight up to 5 pounds.
Hearing Wendy cry for the first time was also a joyful experience for Boyce.
Boyce writes: “The first time the baby cried, it was comical; it was the most ridiculous tiny little squeaking noise I’ve ever heard.”
This, he insisted, was a good sign that Wendy was indeed getting stronger as earlier she could not cry.
Once the couple nursed her back to health, they knew they could not let her go.
“When I came home that night, my wife said, ‘I can’t give this baby up.'”
In agreement, they began drawing up the paperwork for adoption.
“We both had a good cry,” he said.
But the adoption process far from easy.
Boyce said he was faced with a timetable, as he had to leave the country to go serve in another part of the world.
“You have to go through all these jumping hoops to adopt the baby,” he said.
He said it was particularly hard to adopt in South Korea, where they would only allow an adoption if the baby was registered at the orphanage in Seoul.
But Boyce was determined not to give up doing everything he could to adopt Wendy.
He said he ended up having to pay people like the local police to do what they could to get Wendy out of the country.
It took “four and a half months to adopt her,” he said. “I had to get her registered in an orphanage and had to pay some people.”
If he had not gotten Wendy out of the country, Boyce said he was certain she would have died.
Finding the money to pay for her adoption was also difficult.
“Being a 1st lieutenant in the Army and getting $294 a month, I borrowed against my salary,” he said, explaining that it required him to serve longer in the Army.
(Boyce served a total of 25 years in the military, serving in Korea, Vietnam and Europe from 1965-90.)
More hang-ups continued with the immigration officer postponing his application.
Boyce said he had to leave the country, leaving his wife to finish the application process.
A new beginning
As Boyce’s wife finally made her way with Wendy out of the country in February 1969, there was a horrendous snowstorm she had to encounter, he said.
She began walking the two miles toward the airport with Wendy in her arms when a snowplow picked her up, bringing her to the airport.
But that was not the end of her rough ordeal.
Because she was Canadian, Boyce said officials didn’t want to let her in the country after she arrived in Seattle, telling her to fly back to Canada first and re-enter the country on a flight from there.
A frustrated Boyce said his wife handed the baby to an immigration official, saying “I’ll be back. I am going to Canada. You take care of her.”
As a result, the official immediately came up with a solution and told her to wait.
A loving family
In a telephone interview from her home in Melbourne, Wendy Boyce Green said she felt grateful for what her father did for her.
“I have always felt like no matter what happened in my life, I am grateful to them for giving me a life basically,” she said.
Wendy remembers being told her story when she was young.
At first “I could not fully comprehend it but over the years you become fascinated with it.”
Growing up, Wendy said she never felt like she was adopted, saying she was always supported and loved unconditionally.
Even when she got frustrated as a teenager, Wendy said she never lost sight of the fact that her parents saved her life.
“Sometimes when you are a teenager if something does not go right you get angry at your parents,” she said. “I would never hold grudges or show total disrespect because of what they did for me. I would love and respect them no matter what.”
Boyce insists that he is the one that is blessed.
Thinking about how he found his daughter, Boyce said he sometimes stays awake at night marveling at it all.
In particular, he said he was also blessed to have three grandsons.
“You wonder how life works,” he said. “Why did this all happen? Maybe one of (Wendy’s) boys will come up with a cure for cancer. “I hope to live to find it out.”
Livi Stanford is a reporter with the Daily Sun. She can be reached at 753-1119, ext. 9245, firstname.lastname@example.org.