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SPEECH | May 25, 2017

GEN Brooks gives Memorial Day remarks

Ambassadors and members of the diplomatic corps, Chairman Chi Kap Chong of the un Korean War allies association, Mr. Michael Napsey representing the veterans of foreign wars, fellow flag officers; distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen; and especially among us, those who have served and do serve, and their families, and those who have lost loved ones in the service of their country . . . yeorobun, annyeong hashimnikka, and good morning.

Thank you for joining us today on knight field together to commemorate memorial day...a day to remember those who sacrificed their lives while serving their country, and the sacrifices of their families.

Let me first thank the troops on the field representing today’s generation, the united nations command honor guard, the Eighth Army Band, and the second infantry division salute battery for your outstanding performance today, we thank you very much for your excellence.

And, to our representatives from the south Korean Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs and from the ROK-U.S. friendship organizations, thank you for taking the time to attend today’s ceremony and for being part of our history.

Today we are gathered together to pay our respects to the fallen—to those humble souls who came before us and died in the service of their nations. We offer tribute in the form of prayer and moments of silence, giving pause to honor what they gave to us, and being mindful of our stewardship of that gift.

We must ensure that the price paid was not done so without a recognition of the cost, and that we exercise gratitude and humility for the gifts with which we have been bestowed.

And while we stand ready to face any hazard in the name of our republics, our constitutions and our families, our thoughts must hearken back to those whose mortal sacrifice secured the liberty that we hold dear. It is because of their courage that we walk unencumbered by the yoke of tyranny.

We remember the deeds of their duty, and we repeat their stories as the illustrations of that which is best within each of us, and the actions of the best among us…

And we are reminded that they were people like us today, who served in Korea and who, while serving gave their last full measure of devotion.

We remember and share these stories, not because we knew the honored warrior personally, but instead because of what their sacrifice means to us and others.

I considered sharing stories of warriors from every service, from the republic of Korea, the united states and from the united nations sending states, and there are many to be told and remembered.
The stories of sacrifice during the three years of the Korean war, from all the nations fighting under the blue flag of the united nations command to protect a new democracy – The Republic of Korea – are numerous and worthy of remembrance. The books on the table record their names.

But today I want to focus on the continued call to duty, and the sacrifices of warriors after the signing of the armistice, defending here on the peninsula and fighting as allies in other places, like Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the late 1960’s North Korea engaged in provocations so overt, frequent and deadly, that this period is often referred to as “the second Korean War.”

It was during that time that north Korea illegally seized and captured an American naval vessel operating in international waters.
On January 23rd, 1968 the USS Pueblo came under attack from elements of the North Korean navy and air force.

Attempting to break contact and reach friendly forces, the pueblo was brought under fire.

Such was the intensity of the attack that the ship was seriously damaged and members of the crew were grievously wounded. The captain of the American ship surrendered to prevent further losses to his crew.

Before being boarded the crew worked desperately to destroy classified materials. It was while doing this that fireman Duane Hodges was killed in the line of duty.

Petty Officer Hodges was following his last order in the face of the intense hostile fire while undertaking the task of destroying classified materials, and he was mortally wounded while carrying out this mission to the very end.

Eight years later, U.S. Army Captain Arthur Bonifas and first Lieutenant Mark Barrett were brutally murdered on August 18th, 1976 by North Koreans near the joint security area in Panmunjeom, in what has been infamously dubbed “the axe murder incident.”

Captain Bonifas, two weeks before the completion of his tour of duty and reunion with his wife and three children, was leading a detail into the DMZ to trim a tree that was blocking video surveillance cameras that were in place to monitor North Korean guard posts and activities for armistice compliance.

It was shortly after beginning this seemingly mundane task that fifteen North Korean soldiers descended upon and attacked the detail.
In the few minutes of hand-to-hand fighting between the two groups both Captain Bonifas and lieutenant Barrett lay dead, having been mortally wounded by axes stolen from the American and South Korean detail by the north Koreans.

This incident nearly triggered another war here on the peninsula, and it resulted in un command “operation Paul Bunyan” where allied forces massed all along the DMZ, in the air and in the waters of the east and west seas, providing a strong backup to another detail going back to the place where the murders occurred, this time to not trim the tree but to cut it down completely.

I remember as a West Point cadet just a few months after my entry there, standing on the parade field to honor Captain Bonifas as he returned to west point to be laid to rest. That was an early reminder of the sacrifice of patriots in Korea.

And let us not forget the sacrifices and inspirational examples of our Korean teammates since the signing of the armistice – a period that cannot be called “peace.”

On June 29th, 2002 at 1025 hours, in the waters off Yeonpyeong Island, a ROK navy patrol boat intercepted a North Korean vessel that had strayed three miles south of the northern limit line.
The South Korean attempts to persuade them to return to North Korean territory led to a deadly exchange of gunfire in which both sides suffered casualties.

In the din of the battle, republic of Korea Navy Chief Petty officer Park Dong-Hyeock (박동혁), serving as the medic aboard ship, moved fearlessly under fire rendering aid to dozens of casualties on board.
By the time the battle was over, the North Korean boat was sunk—killing about thirty personnel, while the ROK navy suffered six dead and eighteen wounded. One of those killed was Chief Petty Officer Park who was grievously injured while tending to his shipmates, and eventually died from his wounds.

The sad fact of the matter is that there are simply too many stories to tell. Each of them equally worthy of the one preceding it, but I share with you this small number to represent but a few small threads in a greater tapestry of valor, service and sacrifice.
I will end with one last story.

It is the story of ROK Air Force Major Park Myong-Ryol (박명렬) and his son Captain Park In-Chol (박인철).

Maj Park was known to quote “it is my destiny to soar and dive amongst the clouds, ready and willing to face the fire.” he was a pilot assigned to the 17th Fighter Wing flying the F-4e Phantom Fighter Jet.

On March 14th, 1984, during the ROK-U.S. “Team Spirit” Exercise, Major Park’s jet crashed while conducting low-altitude gunnery.
His son, who was only five years-old at the time of his father’s death, would later vow to become a fighter pilot himself, carrying on the family legacy. Years later he said, “the first time i sat in the cockpit, I knewi was on the right path.”

He did what he said he would do and became a fighter pilot.
Unfortunately, after only few years of his service, tragedy would strike the family again. On July, 20th, 2007, Captain Park was conducting night live-fire training when his plane also crashed—killing him as well. Today both father and son rest together at Seoul National Cemetery.
The sacrifice they and their family have made to Korea is truly profound.

Thank you for your patience as I told these stories. remembering those that bequeathed the gift of liberty to us is what today is about.
Let us in our commemorations, and in the service we perform every day, celebrate their enthusiasm and faith to their nations and their fellow countrymen.

So today, as we witness the twenty-one gun salute and as the trumpets play the mournful notes of taps, let us find meaning and inspiration in the sounds. For they salute our brave warriors who have found eternal rest and filled our hearts with fire.
Kamsahamnida, katchi kapshida!
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