Remembering veterans of Korea and their accomplishments [Letter]

The following comments were to be presented to the Harford County Council this week. A copy of the remarks was provided in advance for publication.

Good Evening. Council President Boniface, Council Members and those in attendance. We appreciate being included on the agenda.

We are Veterans of the Korean War, which began on June 25, 1950 as a police action and ended with an armistice signed on July 27, 1953. The three of us here represent Korean Veterans in Harford County and Maryland having served their country. Let me introduce my friends and comrades here tonight:

• Jack Cloman, a Sergeant, a tank commander with the 35th tank company, 25th infantry division. He served from November 1952 to December 1953.

• Sam Fielder Jr., a Sergeant with easy battery, 2nd battalion, 1st marine division. He served from April 1952 to July 1953.

• My function was similar to the role of radar on "M.A.S.H." a switchboard operator-to provide communication between this division, battery and combat units.

We are here tonight, not to consider the matter of the period of the war, but rather the post war years to this date. While much has been written of the war itself, little is known or understood of how the Republic of Korea was formed. Following [World War II], a partition of the Korean peninsula at the 38th parallel was agreed to by the governments of the USSR and the United States. As a matter of interest, the 38th parallel passes through the eastern shore of Maryland at a point just above the Virginia line and north of the Town of Hopewell.

We have known a Korea torn apart by the war and left with little means to support itself. The United States provided a steady foundation from which the country could grow and rebuild. Over the early years to the mid-1980s the governing choice at that time was through several dictators, some coups, elected presidents, an assassination and yet remarkably that a country continue to grow into a stable democracy that countries of the world could emulate.

In 2003, from July 23 to July 29, we, and five additional members of our honor guard, were given the privilege to return to Korea along with several thousand veterans from the 21 countries who had come to their and we saw firsthand what had been achieved over a period of a half century. That experience referred to the area round Seoul from Injon to Panmunjon. The City of Seoul, which had been about 90 percent destroyed, now ranks with the great cities of the world. The December 2011 issue of the National Geographic has an article with photos of the city emphasizing its modern style. Their economy is ranked at 12th in the world. Industry includes such businesses as two car manufacturers (Kia and Hyundai) the worlds largest ship builder and scientific programs such as "cloning." The secretary general of the UN is from the Republic of Korea. Further, there is now a lady president who is a daughter of a former president. This modernization could not have been achieved without an educated society.

The people of Korea are our brothers and sisters as we are intertwined with their history. They are a people who are extremely thankful for all that was done for them. They do not forget and they extend their gratitude to us when we meet. Yet, as you will recall in President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address where he stated in part – "That we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain." And so it is with our dead of 33,739 – they have not died in vain. Also, there were 103,924 wounded, 7,000-plus missing in action and prisoners of war (more than 51 percent died in captivity). Overall, 1,789,000-plus served in theater from all military units. At the Korean War Memorial on Boston Street in Baltimore, 532 names of Marylanders killed in action are engraved on the wall of honor and this includes two who were awarded the congressional medal of honor. We all sleep well at night knowing the achievements of the people of the Republic of Korea.

We want the world to know of Korea's tremendous growth, gratitude, friendship and that they are a stalwart ally of the United States. It is our hope and belief that at some future time the Korean people, both North and South, will be a full democratic nation.

Our chapter over the years has promoted visits of veterans to the various high schools in Harford County at grade 11 to give our students a better understanding of that war. This year we donated $1,000 to the Harford County Public Library to prepare exhibits at the Bel Air and Abingdon Libraries, from June 25 to July 27.

Our horizons are more defined now than before and we will move on to history. However, it is the deeds and sacrifices that will be remembered. While it was a "Police Action" in, 1950, it will always be known as a victory when the full dynamic of the post war years are taken into consideration.

Thank you once again for providing a moment for us to express and acknowledgment of this the 60th anniversary of the end of hostilities in that part of the world. Veterans of a forgotten victory!

Robert Banker


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