Finding God in War
President Nelson’s success helping to create a heart-lung machine in 1951 drew the attention of the Surgeon General’s Office in Washington, D.C. With the United States entangled in the Korean War, the Surgeon General’s Office decided to make the most of President Nelson’s obligated military duty by selecting him to form a surgical research unit at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
After uprooting their family and just days after the birth of their second child, plans changed for First Lieutenant Nelson, who was transferred into active duty. During that summer of 1951, President Nelson toured South Korea, including the battlefront, visiting mobile army surgical hospital units and suggesting improvements.
During this time, President Nelson came face to face with life-threatening danger, paralyzing fear, crippling handicaps, pain, death, heartbreak, disease, and those who lost limbs, lost their innocence, and lost hope. No doubt President Nelson’s kindness and compassion helped heal and uplift those suffering in such terrible conditions, even as his own empathy grew.
In one instance, President Nelson told the story of meeting a young LDS soldier in a hospital—one who helped him understand the true breadth of faith:
"As I came to one mobile army surgical hospital one of the doctors who knew I was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints asked me if I would be willing to see a Mormon boy who'd been hit in the spine with a missile. He was a paraplegic; wouldn't ever use his legs again and so as I was introduced to this young man, he could see that I didn't know what to say. I greeted him and expressed condolences and love as best I could and he said, 'Oh don't worry about me, Brother Nelson. I know why I am here. And I don't use my legs to work out my salvation. I do that with my faith.'
"I learned a lot from that young man. He was under age. He was not even old enough to be an elder, but there he was with great faith facing a future of inability to use his lower extremities. I often wonder what ever happened to that wonderful young man who taught me a lot about faith" ("Saints at War: Korea and Vietnam," pages 120-121).