38 U.S. Retirement Home Residents Get Korean War Medal
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 12, 2001 Visit the DoD "Home for Heroes" web site at www.defenselink.mil/specials/heroes/.
Republic of Korea Korean War Service Medals were presented April 11 to 38 residents of the Soldiers' and Airmen's Home here.
The South Korean medal was bestowed on 18 soldiers, 15 airmen, three sailors and two Marines. Each also received a Department of Defense certificate of appreciation and a lapel pin.
The ceremony was highlighted with remarks by Lt. Gen. Donald L. Peterson, Air Force deputy chief of staff for personnel; retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Nels Running, director of DoD's 50th Anniversary of the Korean War Commemoration Committee; and Col. Choong Soon Kang, air attache at the South Korean Embassy here.
"We remember what you did for Korea, for peace, and for the free world," Kang said in salute to the veterans. "To all the veterans, present here or absent, not only the Korean people, but all freedom-loving people around the world are eternally grateful to you."
He said one of the lessons the war taught was that Korea was not alone in its struggle for freedom and democracy. "Twenty-one countries came to help us under the banner of the United Nations," Kang told the audience. "About 1.5 million Americans fought in the war -- 54,246 of them lost their lives and 103,284 were injured. You were all among them.
"It was because of what you did in Korea that the Korean people came to learn how to say 'thank you,'" he said. "Even now, after a half of a century, these are the first words that come to the minds of the Korean people when we think of America."
Because of America's sacrifices, Korea is a free and prosperous nation. It has evolved as the 12th largest economy in the world and America's eighth largest trading partner, the colonel pointed out.
"Nearly a million Koreans and Americans cross the Pacific every year to visit one another," Kang noted. "And Korea is now a model of working democracy." He told the veterans they paid dearly for peace and "taught us that freedom is not free."
When 1.5 million American veterans returned home from the Korean War in 1953, many Americans questioned the nation's involvement in the war, Peterson noted. He said the answer is that South Korea is now a free democratic, prosperous nation.
"Time tells us that, 'yes,' the sacrifices of dedicated men and women were not in vain," said Peterson. "Our freedom and that of our South Korean friends was not free, but was paid in full by those who gave their very lives and those fortunate enough to return and witness the impact of their sacrifices."
Memorials honoring Korean War veterans have been erected across the nation and around the world to express gratitude to those who served from the United States and 15 other nations, the general noted. He said the memorials honor veterans like Soldiers' and Airmen's Home resident Richard Rousseau, who served with the Marines at the Battle for Chosin Reservoir.
"It's people like Jack Freeman, who served with the Air Force's 4th Fighter Wing, working on F-86 aircraft," the general said. "And John Grimes, who, at the age of 20, found himself on the USS Forrest Royal, serving in the Korean War."
He said the memorials also honor people like retirement home resident Norman J. Godfrey, who served with the Army's 7th Cavalry Division and was involved in several key battles and campaigns, including the breakout from the Pusan Perimeter.
"I am honored to receive the medal," said Godfrey, who served in Korea from August 1950 to August 1951. He left the war zone with two Bronze Star Medals, two Purple Hearts and the Combat Infantryman's Badge.
"The worst thing was going to the hospital and then going back to the front line -- it's hell!" Godfrey said. "You've got to be almost dead before you could get off the line."
Godfrey left the Army and joined the Air Force and retired as a staff sergeant in March 1968. He became a resident of the Soldiers' and Airmen's Home in May 1992.
Eugene E. Mundy, a native of Washington, D.C., arrived in South Korea five days after the war broke out and stayed until the end.
"We were the first ones to go in and the last ones to leave," said Mundy, who was a paramedic with the air and sea rescue. "I'd planned to get out of the service and become a doctor, but after seeing all that blood, I changed my mind. I still have some pretty bad dreams." He also retired as an Air Force staff sergeant.
Peterson said the medal expresses the Republic of Korea's appreciation for the selfless service American military members rendered during the Korean War. The medal is being given to men and women who served between the outbreak of hostilities on June 25, 1950, and the date the armistice was signed, July 27, 1953.
"To date, more than 49,500 Korean War Service Medals have been issued and more than 70 presentations made to groups of up to 250 throughout our nation," Peterson noted.
"Nations don't go to war; individuals go to war," said Running. "These soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines know what it means to go to war."
Running said he hopes the large group of Junior ROTC cadets learned something from the awards presentation ceremony. "Please take the time to meet and talk with the veterans," he told the students.
South Korea first offered the medal in 1951 to U.N. forces serving in Korea and adjacent waters. At the time, U.S. law prohibited U.S. military personnel from wearing medals issued by foreign governments. Congress changed the ruling in 1954, but by then most U.S. service members eligible for the medal had returned home.
South Korea reiterated its offer in 1998; DoD approved the acceptance and wear of the medal on Aug. 20, 1999. About 1.8 million U.S. Korean War veterans are eligible to receive the medal.
The ceremony was held as part of DoD's 50th Anniversary of the Korean War Commemoration. For more information, call toll-free (866) KOREA 50 or visit the commemoration committee Web site at http://korea50.army.mil.
Facts about the Soldiers' and Airmen's Home and the Naval Home in Gulfport, Miss., can be found at http://www.afrh.com.
For information about applying for the medal, call the Air Force Personnel Center on weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Central time at (800) 558-1404, or the Awards and Decorations Section (210) 565-2432/2520/2516, or fax (210) 565-3118. The Web site is found at www.Afpc.randolph.af.mil/awards.