YONGSAN GARRISON, Republic of Korea –
colorful flags of all allied nations line a temporary outdoor gallery
at the Eighth Army War Memorial on U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan. The
collection of photographs, provided by Benedict An, depict scenes from
the Korean War era, illustrating the tragic struggle of the nation and
the soldiers who fought for the freedom of the people here.
The scene helped set the tone for a Veterans Day ceremony at the
memorial honoring U.S. military veterans here, Nov. 11. The annual event
is coordinated by the Department of Pacific Area, Veterans of Foreign
Wars (VFW). Approximately 250 people attended the gathering, including
young service members, senior officers, retired veterans, civilians and
"At the eleventh hour, on the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, in
the year 1918, the guns were silenced and the armistice ending the Great
War (WWI) was signed," said Stephen Tharp, USFK Public Affairs, as he
began the ceremony. "Less than 20 years later the axis forces of
Germany, Italy and Japan were on the move in Europe, Asia and Africa
seeking domination over their neighbors through the force of arms."
He summarized the events during the next decade which led communist
forces to attack their southern brothers in Korea, creating a
"devastating fratricidical war."
"Thirty seven months later, an armistice was signed at Panmunjom. And
fifty-six years later, forces from the United States and our other
United Nations stand side-by-side with our Republic of Korea allies,
maintaining that truce," Tharp said.
In addition to Korean War veterans, Tharp asked the group to join him
in honoring another distinguished group of Americans -- Military
personnel missing in action and prisoners of war.
"They and their on-going sacrifices must be remembered," Tharp said.
"Remembering and caring for them, we must not let others forget.
"America's professional and citizen soldiers have been called upon time
and time again to defend liberty," Tharp said. "Currently, a new
chapter is being written as we honor those comrades who defended and are
still defending our great nation and our way of life in the war on
Lt. Gen. Bernard S. Champoux, commander of Eighth Army, echoed Tharp's
remarks about the caliber of those who have served in uniform.
"On the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, I would like to recognize
our Vietnam Veterans here today," Champoux said. "Thank you for your
service … and for continuing to serve your country here in Korea."
The general spoke about the symbolism of the location of the ceremony,
and the continuing mission modern veterans in Korea are engaged in.
"It is appropriate that we gather at the Eighth Army Memorial today.
Every day of the year, this memorial stands in silent tribute to the
young warriors who stopped Communist aggression in Korea," Champoux
said. "It also serves as a stark reminder of the important mission that
U.S. Forces Korea continues to accomplish to this day."
He asked attendees to honor veterans by telling their story … the story
of young men and women who answered their nation's call, and made the
ultimate sacrifice, so Americans could live in peace and freedom.
"We owe them a debt of gratitude that we can never repay," Champoux
said. "But we can honor them by fully embracing the freedom that they
gave their lives for. And we can honor them with our own service …
because the best way to honor our veterans is to finish what they
During the ceremony, baskets of flowers were placed on the steps of the
memorial, by members of 17 individual organizations, in tribute of the
sacrifices made by service members over the past century -- U.S. Embassy
Seoul; U.S. Forces Korea; Combined Forces Command; Korea Veterans
Association; VFW Dept. of Pacific Areas; Veterans of Foreign Wars Posts
8180, 10033, 10216, 10223 and 12109; Non-commissioned Officers
Association; Sergeant Majors Association; United Service Organization;
Defense Commissary Agency in honor of Vietnam Veterans; Military Order
of the Cooties; Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of America.
The piercing sound of a rifle salute, the bugle playing of 'Taps,' and
the retiring of the Colors signified the closure of the ceremony, and a
solemn reminder of the true meaning of Veterans Day.
"Our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines continue to defend freedom
on the Korean Peninsula and around the globe today," Champoux said. "And
they proudly uphold the legacy of those who served before them."
In his final comments, Tharp recognized the accomplishments of all U.S. forces.
"By their services on land, on sea and in the air, we are forever in
their debt," Tharp said. "For the flag of our nations still flies over a
land of free people."
Following the ceremony, attendees slowly walked through the outdoor
gallery of Korean War photographs, soaking up the black and white images
captured sixty years ago.
"There is such a contrast between what is shown here (in the pictures)
and how Korea is now," said Col. John Greenmyer of Eighth Army
information operations. "The first time I was in Korea was in 1979, as a
sergeant and radio operator. I remember there were no trees here taller
than I was, and now the country has changed and grown so much."
Greenmyer said being a veteran and currently serving in a nation with a
deep history of military purpose has special meaning for him.
"I'm glad we have been able to continue deterring significant
aggression from the north, and someday I hope to see the reunification
of the peninsula," Greenmyer said. "That (milestone) will be a great
honor to the Korean War veterans."