Oct 13, 2015

South Korean government honors local veterans for service in Korean War

Representatives from South Korea’s government paid tribute on Thursday to some of the local veterans who fought for the country’s freedom more than a half-century ago.

“You answered the call to defend a country you never knew, and a people you never met,” Dongman Han, Consul General of the Republic of Korea, told a group of about 30 Korean War veterans from around Park County. “We in Korea remember your noble spirit; we remember your great achievement to defend Korea from communists.”

Republic of Korea Deputy Consul General Sang Ryol Lee photographed local Korean War veterans at the State of Wyoming Veterans Memorial Park on Thursday in Cody. Cody News Co. photo by CJ Baker
The Korean War, is sometimes referred to as the “Forgotten War” — overshadowed by World War II, which ended five years earlier, and the Vietnam War, which began several years later.

“Korea was just kinda off out of sight,” said Gary Troxel, a Korean War veteran who lives in Cody.

It began as a civil war between North and South Korea, the U.S. State Department explains on its website, but the United States and the United Nations intervened to fight on the side of the south when the Soviet Union-backed north invaded in the summer of 1950.

“It started out to be a small war; ‘be home by Thanksgiving,’” Troxel said. “And the next thing you know, the Chinese have entered it (to support North Korea), and it turned out to be a much tougher war.”

The conflict became a stalemate and resulted in a truce in July of 1953.

“Everybody just went and did their job and came home. That’s really what it was,” Troxel said.


Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead said he wants all of the state’s citizens — young and old — to know about the war and what it means. In his remarks at the Cody event, Mead noted that more than 36,000 American troops were killed and more than 100,000 wounded in the fighting.
Mead visited South Korea two years ago and “what I saw over there was an absolutely thriving economy,” he said. “And more important than that, is I saw freedoms and liberties not enjoyed to the north.”

The governor said he was happy to report back to his father, Korean War veteran Peter Mead, “that it was a job well done, and those people over there have been the beneficiaries of what you all have done.”

Gov. Mead thanked General Consul Han for taking the time to recognize Wyoming’s veterans.
Han said Korea has changed over the past six decades — becoming the world’s No. 1 ship-builder and producer of semi-conductors, among other achievements — but the country’s gratitude for those who fought in the Korean War remains the same.

“Korea would not be enjoying peace, democracy and economic prosperity ... without the heroism, valor and the sacrifice of the fallen war veterans,” Han said.

On behalf of his country, Han presented each of the local veterans with a “Korean Ambassador for Peace Medal,” thanking them for their service and sacrifice.

A few medals were accepted by veterans’ widows or spouses. With the conflict now some 65 years in the past, Korean War veterans are at least into their early 80s.

Bob Davidson of Cody salutes Consul General Dongman Han shortly before receiving an 'Ambassador for Peace Medal.' Cody News Co. photo by CJ Baker
Veteran Paul Rodriguez helped form the state’s only chapter of Korean War veterans, helped organize efforts to build a memorial for the war’s fallen soldiers in Cody and helped put together Thursday’s event. Rodriguez, who lives in the Heart Mountain area, said close to two dozen members have died since the chapter’s formation in 2006.

Cody Mayor Nancy Tia Brown welcomed the Wyoming and foreign leaders at Thursday’s ceremony, “but the real special guests that are here today are you,” she told the veterans. “Thank you so much for being here,”

After a medal presentation at Geysers on the Terrace, the group proceeded to the State of Wyoming Veterans Memorial Park, where Mead and Han laid a wreath on the Korean War memorial.

America had previously gotten off track in not thanking its service members and, “you veterans, Korean veterans, have set us on the right track,” Mead said, thanking them for their efforts for all U.S. veterans.

When soldiers are deployed today from Wyoming, “they know from what you’ve done, the example you’ve set, that they will be sent off with the full support of the state, and their families and the country,” Mead said. “And when they return, they’re going to be returned to open arms, with gratitude and with blessings, because we want to now forever remember all those who served.”

Rodriguez hopes the state’s Korean War veterans who couldn’t make last week's event can be honored in the future.

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