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Sunday, June 29, 2014

NH officials, Korean Americans thank U.S. military veterans for coming to South Korea’s aid 64 years ago

CONCORD – Although summer was about to begin in the Republic of Korea – South Korea – in mid-1950, the southeast Asian nation was descending into what a Korean diplomat on Saturday called its “darkest hour.”

But Korean Consulate General Ohm Song-jun told a gathering of Korean War veterans, their families and other visitors that the United States arrived just in time. ...

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CONCORD – Although summer was about to begin in the Republic of Korea – South Korea – in mid-1950, the southeast Asian nation was descending into what a Korean diplomat on Saturday called its “darkest hour.”

But Korean Consulate General Ohm Song-jun told a gathering of Korean War veterans, their families and other visitors that the United States arrived just in time.

“The U.S. stood up to the invading forces of North Korea,” Song-jun said from the dais at the New Hampshire Army National Guard Aviation Support headquarters in Concord.

“You saved South Korea from a North Korean invasion. Your bravery and heroic actions will always be remembered.”

It’s a simple, but sincere, phrase that nevertheless means a lot to America’s Korean War veterans, who fought what is sometimes called “the forgotten war” that fell between two far more heralded and studied wars, World War II and Vietnam.

The event held Saturday, Welcome Home Korean War Veterans, is an annual ceremony organized initially by the Korean American Society of New Hampshire to recognize and pay tribute to members of the U.S. armed forces who served during the Korean War.

This year, the state, the New Hampshire National Guard and the New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery climbed onboard as sponsors.

The state’s observance grew out of a national effort launched in 2011 in conjunction with the signing of the Defense Authorization Bill, which among other things authorized the formation of the Department of Defense 60th Anniversary of the Korean War Commemoration Committee.

The committee calls its mission a threefold effort: to honor the U.S. veterans, to commemorate the war’s key events and to educate Americans about the significance of the war.

Gov. Maggie Hassan, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, U.S. Rep. Ann McLane Kuster and U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte took part in the roughly one-hour ceremony.

It also included remarks by Maj. Gen. Bill Reddel, New Hampshire National Guard adjutant general; Dick Zoerb, of the state Korean War Veterans Association; and Tony Enrietto, president of the Korean War National Museum in Springfield, Ill.

Korean War veteran Lawrence Sinclair, of
Litchfield, and his wife were among the attendees. Sinclair called the ceremony a “nice tribute,” and took time afterward to join conversations with fellow veterans.

Representatives of other veterans groups, including the POW/MIA advocacy motorcycle group Rolling Thunder and the Nam Knights, a motorcycle club of veterans and law enforcement officers, were on hand, as well, to pay tribute to their fellow soldiers.

Hassan, Ayotte, Kuster and Shaheen each had high praise for the veterans, thanking them and reiterating the fact that despite the war’s “forgotten” label, the soldiers’ service will never be forgotten.

“Thank you,” Ayotte began, calling them simple but important words that are richly deserved. “You kept us safe in the world, and kept the people of South Korea free. How hard you pushed back communism.

“Today, we want you all to know how much you mean to us, how much you inspire us. Because of your sacrifice, we are able to stand here on this beautiful day and enjoy our freedoms.”

Kuster reached out to the veterans, assuring them their state and national representatives are there for them.

“You were there to serve us, and now we’re here to serve you,” she said. “Please don’t hesitate to ask … to ask what we can do for you.”

Enrietto paused as he stepped up to the microphone and scanned the gathering.

“It’s truly awe-inspiring to see all of you here today,” he began. “Please know that your war is not forgotten.”

Enrietto invoked a version of the famous Winston Churchill quote, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few,” saying that’s precisely what came to mind as he rose to speak.

“I look out at every one of you here today, and that is so true,” he said.

Meanwhile, for Song-jun, America’s military intervention on behalf of his native land some 64 years ago this month is a powerful memory.

“I want to extend my sincere thanks to the men and women of this great country and this great state who fought to protect my boyhood home from tyranny and oppression,” he said.

“You paved the way for years of prosperity in the Republic of Korea.”

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-6443 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Shalhoup on Twitter (@Telegraph_DeanS).