Harford executive will honor Korean War veterans in State of the County Address for 2019

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Harford County Executive Barry Glassman will honor local Korean War veterans, who will be among the special guests attending his fifth annual State of the County address next week.

Glassman, re-elected to a second term last November, will deliver the address to the Harford County Council — as well as the public — at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the council chambers in Bel Air. This will be the first State of the County Address of Glassman’s second term.

The speech will be streamed live online via the county website, and rebroadcasts will air on Harford Cable Network at 8 p.m. Wednesday and 2 p.m. next Thursday.

The speech is titled “Building on Our Success.” It is slated to cover topics such as the current financial state of the county and its financial outlook, economic development, the efforts to fight opioid addiction and to “strengthen the fabric of our community,” spokesperson Cindy Mumby said in an email.

County’s priorities

The issues Glassman plans to touch on in his speech Tuesday, such as county finances, the opioid crisis and strengthening community bonds, are the same ones he highlighted as the keynote speaker for the Harford County Chamber of Commerce’s annual State of the County Luncheon Jan. 17.

“I am pleased to report that the state of Harford County is strong, and our amazing turnaround story continues and bodes well for my next term,” Glassman said at the time.

He discussed multiple topics during that speech, including the county’s strong financial picture, including its top AAA-bond rating and the local housing market’s full recovery over the past five years.

Glassman also discussed the status of the Harford County Crisis Center in Bel Air and his administration’s partnership with health care providers and nonprofit entities to respond to mental health and addiction crises in the community.

The remembrance wall project and how Harford County was the first county government in the U.S. to contribute funds to it, was also touched on by Glassman to the chamber. As the 2019 president of the Maryland Association of Counties, he has been encouraging leaders of other jurisdictions to do the same and “make sure every one of the fallen from the Korean conflict is listed on that wall.”

He also discussed funding for Harford County Public Schools after Superintendent Sean Bulson’s presentation of his budget for fiscal 2020 that requires cutting 179 administrative and instructional positions to balance.

Local parents, teachers and students urged Glassman and his top aides, during a Jan. 24 community meeting on next year’s county budget, to make education funding a priority and help the school system avoid having to make such cuts.

Glassman said during his speech to the Chamber of Commerce that his administration will work with Bulson and the Board of Education as the HCPS and county budgets are developed in the coming months. He noted the county administration had to make difficult funding choices when he took office in 2014, and said “if you go through that process of efficiency, right-sizing, you can come out on the other side in better shape.”

“I’m hopeful that this year, when we get to the budget, we will be able to work with [the schools] and make sure they have a great future as well in the county,” Glassman said.

Honored guests

The administration typically invites guests to be recognized during the speech, and Korean War veterans will be among this year’s guests.

Mumby said in her email that “we are honored to have local veterans of the Korean War as our guests to highlight their nationwide campaign to build a Wall of Remembrance at the Korean War Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.”

The county made a $12,300 contribution last November to support the remembrance wall project, making it the first county in the U.S. to do so, according to a news release. The nonprofit Korean War Veterans Memorial Foundation Inc. is leading the nationwide drive to raise funds for the project. It was authorized by Congress to honor the 36,574 Americans who died during the 1950-1953 Korean War, as well as those wounded, taken prisoner or listed as Missing in Action, according to the memorial foundation’s website.

President Barack Obama signed in October 2016 the legislation. The remembrance wall, on which the names of all who died will be etched, will be built at the Korean War Veterans Memorial on the National Mall.

Army veteran Bob Banker of Fallston, who was a switchboard operator with an artillery battery unit during the war, said Wednesday that he will be present for the State of the County speech, along with fellow Korean War veteran Sam Fielder.

Fielder, a Jarrettsville resident, served in the Marine Corps and was also part of an artillery unit. The county executive and County Council named him an honorary poet laureate for Harford County in 2017, as Fielder has written many poems about the Korean War and patriotism.

“I love the recognition [for Korean War veterans],” Banker, 87, said. “It’s long overdue — we were the quiet war, if you will.”

The Korean conflict, which Banker said was “sort of scrunched in between” World War II in the 1940s and the Vietnam War in the 1960s, has often been described as the “forgotten war.” The Korean peninsula had been divided after World War II at the 38th parallel.

Tensions have remained high on the peninsula, more than 65 years after the conflict ended, with North Korea issuing regular threats against the U.S. and its allies in the region. President Donald Trump held a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last June, a meeting Banker said would have been unimaginable a year before.

Banker was among 24 Korean Veterans from around the world who visited South Korea in late September and early October. He and his fellow veterans were guests of the South Korean government.

He recalled being in a government building for an event at which President Moon Jae-in spoke, and seeing a wall about 20-feet high inscribed with the names of service members from the U.S. and its allies who died during the Korean War.

“The simple recognition of that [sacrifice], it’s just an honor, it’s just an honor,” said Banker, who noted that “the real, real heroes gave their lives.”

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