CEYLON - About 30 Korean War veterans were honored Friday during a presentation of medals by a Korean consul, as a show of gratitude for helping South Korea become the country it is today.
"It is a great honor to be here and express our gratitude," said Jin-hyun Lee, a consulate general of the Republic of Korea, based in Chicago. "Today, I'm here to salute the sacrifices you made 62 years ago."
In addition to Chicago, there are South Korean consulates in Houston, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Their consuls have been doing their part to recognize Korean War vets throughout the United States.
SAYING?THANKS?— Owen Fellersen, right, shakes the hand of Jin-hyun Lee, a consulate general of South Korea during a ceremony Friday honoring regional Korean War veterans for their services at the American Legion in Ceylon. Paul Steen, center, assisted the local chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association with the event.
"After the war, we could achieve a democracy because of the service and sacrifice of these soldiers," Lee said. "They saved our country ... We are trying to [express] our gratitude."
Hurly Morris, commander of the local Korean War Veterans Association Chapter 254 played a major role in bringing recognition to local Korean vets.
"He really got after it to get it done, and it took a few years," said Paul Steen of the "Frozen Chosin" KWVA Chapter 41 in Mankato. "He called us a few days ago and asked if we could assist."
Morris told his tale of being a radio operator in the war.
"The fighting was done before I got there," he said. "In Seoul, there was nothing left, nothing but a bunch of rubble. I was 20 years old, about as green as you could get ... I was on top of a mountain for over a year. I had some good times and some bad times."
Morris then described his return to Korea just a few years ago.
"My wife wanted to go and I didn't want to, even though [South Korea] was willing to take care of most of the expense," he said. "We ended up going, and I couldn't believe it. Seoul is now nothing but high-rises. It's home to 10 million people now. It's completely different. It was well worth the trip. I'd love to go again, but I don't know if the country would pick up the expense the second time around."
Many refer to the Korean War as "The Forgotten War" or "The Unknown War," since it was initially described as a "police action" conducted under the auspices of the United Nations.
However, it was clear Friday that the soldiers who served in Korea will never forget. And neither will South Korea.
"We are eternally indebted to you," Lee told the group. "The country you helped in your youth now has a robust economy, and the alliance between our countries has never been better. I am proud of what our country has become, but any pride our country has was born 62 years ago from the blood, sweat and tears that you shed there. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you vets, and thank you America."