Let us not forget US sacrifices
The epitaph inscribed on the tablet commemorating the participation of American soldiers in the Korean War at the Arlington National Cemetery moves us deeply: ``Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met.”
In 1992, when I worked for the Korean Embassy in Washington, D.C., Gen. Van Fleet, the former commander of the 8th Army who was highly respected by Korean people because of his deep love for Korea, died at the age of 100.
I participated in the memorial service at Arlington Cemetery Military Church. All attendees were deeply moved to hear the very short and succinct eulogy made by Van Fleet the 3rd, Air Force captain and grandson of Gen. Van Fleet: ``Gen. Van Fleet was my father and grandfather, my best friend and role model. His footprints will be with me through whole my life in the depths of my soul.”
When Captain Van Fleet was a one–year-old baby, his father, Air Force lieutenant and pilot, went missing in action near the Yalu River during the early stages of the Korean War. After his father died, Captain Van Fleet was brought up by grandfather as if he were his son. His family history awakened me to the deep scars of the Korean War that were inflicted on a peaceful family.
June 22, 1992, is an unforgettable day for me. On that day, there was a mint-molding event at the U.S. Veterans Association building for fund-raising to erect a memorial commemorating U.S. participation in the Korean War. U.S., Gen. Stillwell, former commander of the ROK-U.S. CFC, participated in the event. For the Republic of Korea, I, the consul general of the embassy, participated instead of the ambassador.
At the opening of the event, the curtain of the waiting room was raised, and a group of about 50 wounded veterans made their way slowly to the stage in three lines. The first line was composed of wheel-chair bound wounded soldiers.
The second and third lines were veterans wounded in various parts of the body such as eyes, nose, ears, mouth, arms, legs, and so on. At the front of the group was the most seriously wounded veteran who had lost all four of his limbs. With only his torso remaining, he was embraced by a member of his family.
Suddenly, a profound quiet fell across the hall. Everyone was deeply shocked. Stilwell and almost all the participants took out handkerchiefs to wipe their tears away. The hour-long event was very emotional, full of restrained tears and contemplative silence.
The United States, as part of the U.N. forces, helped deliver Korea from the aggression of North Korea sacrificing 54,000 lives and sending home 100,000 wounded soldiers. The United States then transformed Korea into ``a show case’’ of American democracy pouring in $500 billion of American taxpayers’ money. Behind ``the miracle on the Han River,” there is the invaluable sacrifice of dead and wounded soldiers and their families – whose legacy is six decades of blood, sweat, tears and toil.
Koreans should not forget that the ROK-U.S. Alliance in the pax-Americana era is a “God-given asset”, a friendship that enabled Korea realize its dream of an ``advanced fatherland.” Let’s not be forgetful of the sacrifices the United States has made. Let’s cherish these lofty sacrifices in our hearts and minds.
The writer, former ambassador to Brazil, is an adjunct professor of Hoseo University. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.