Cartwright Returns Home to Dedicate Korean War Memorial
By Air Force Master Sgt. Adam M. Stump
Special to American Forces Press Service
LOVES PARK, Ill., July 28, 2008 The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff returned to his hometown to help dedicate a Korean War Memorial yesterday.
Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright, a native of neighboring Rockford, served as the keynote speaker at the dedication.
The general, speaking to an audience of dozens of Korean War veterans and hundreds of others, said that while it may carry the “forgotten war” moniker, the conflict and the sacrifices of those who fought in Korea will never be forgotten.
“The Korean War was hard-fought and a great sacrifice,” the general, a graduate of Rockford West High School, said.
Cartwright said the sacrifice included the thousands of men who died, including more than 50 from the tri-county area near Rockford.
“It is often said a nation’s greatest treasure are its youth,” Cartwright said. “We commit our youth every time we commit ourselves to war. Many of that great population of youth perished.”
The general said he’s seen a lot of the battle sites in Korea, having served five tours in the Pacific. Cartwright said he once took a Marine general on a flight parallel to the demilitarized zone, showing him the valleys and other areas where armed conflicts had occurred years earlier. In one of the corridors, Cartwright was telling the general about Chesty Puller, a famous Marine general who had been overrun and was heading back south.
The general Cartwright was flying that day had been a company commander under Puller. His entire company had been killed in one night during the battle. He then went back and got another company and every one of them was killed, as well. Cartwright said the experience was truly humbling.
“It is hard to explain the emotion of the people I was privileged to spend time with, to listen to their stories, to listen to their understanding of what occurred over there,” Cartwright said.
But, the fight was well worth it, Cartwright said. Over his time in the military, he said, he’s watched South Korea turn into a nation with a vibrant economy, massive industry and numerous highways. He said when someone looks across the DMZ into North Korea, “you don’t see much,” noting the country’s struggling economy, limited industry and lack of highways.
“Today, we are turning over control of most of the combat forces and most of the combat responsibilities to the South Koreans,” the vice chairman said. “We are moving from the DMZ as a nation to south of the Han River. It’s the right thing to do. [South Korea] is ready to stand up.”
(Air Force Master Sgt. Adam M. Stump is assigned to the Joint Chiefs of Staff Public Affairs Office.)