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Korean War Exhibit Dedication

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, The Pentagon, Washington D.C., Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Colonel Clark thank you to you and your team for all you have done and continue to do to organize and structure and implement a very important recognition, which in many ways we have culminated this morning as we dedicate this hallway and this magnificent display which represents so much history.  

To you Ambassador, thank you for your words and for your deeds and your leadership and what your country represents – we are grateful.  Lew, thank you and thanks to your commission.  And to General Sharp for his service for years of service to our country and especially this special relationship and of course to the Korean War veterans and their families that are here.  We not only acknowledge you, we thank you, we assure you that through this dedication today your efforts and your noble cause will live on.  Just as the ambassador noted you have shaped history in a unique and magnificent way.

Two weeks ago I was in Singapore for the Shangri-La dialogue and spent a good deal of time with the Minister of Defense of South Korea, not only in his role as Minister of Defense, but also representing the Republic of Korea.  That bilateral relationship between the United States and Korea, clearly defined for 60 years now, was much in evidence at the dialogue in Singapore as were our relationships with the Japanese, with the Philippians, the ASEAN nations, with the Chinese, and our European allies. 

And I say that because it does bring in some frame of reference that this special relationship is bigger than just the Korean peninsula or the north Asia region - it has affected the world.  And note that the ambassador reminded us of the tremendous progress the people of South Korea have built for their country, for the region and for the world.  I know of no nation that has done as much in such a little amount of time to improve their people, to improve their region.  And I know of no country a better ally to the United States than the Republic of Korea. 

For all those reasons we are grateful for this relationship, but really what probably anchors the relationship more than any other one thing is that special bond of people wanting a better life, are willing to risk everything for that better life.  I am particularly proud of the Americans, who as the ambassador noted left their country, their small towns, their big towns, in the United States and went far away to a very bloody conflict in a distant land.  Very few veterans of that war, some among us, I suspect knew an awful lot about the Korean Peninsula. 

I was living in a small town in northern Nebraska at the time.  My father was a World War II veteran.  He had been called up to redeploy and I remember vividly at the bus station when my grandmother, my grandfather, my mother and two of my younger brothers and I took my father to the bus station where he got on that bus to Omaha to process, to Lackland Air Force Base – he had been in the Army Air Corps.  He was there for a few months, he never did deploy – by then the war was winding down. 

But I recall the veterans coming home that did deploy, to those small towns in Nebraska.  I recall vividly even as a young boy that there was very little acknowledged of their service: - so what - very few people knew where Korea was - unimportant.  But yet in the scope of things, 60 years later, just as the ambassador reminded us, just as important as any conflict we have been in and had the most significant affect and consequence as the Republic of Korea plays a key role as a very key ally, maintaining peace, security, stability in that part of the world.

So on behalf of the men and women of the Department of Defense and their families, we are grateful, we acknowledge your service, we acknowledge everything you have done, what you mean to this country, what you mean to the world, and the model that you have provided to young men and women in uniform for generations to come which has been evidence by this great display.  And to your families.  Thanks to your families for what they have endured, what they continue to do for this country.

God bless you.

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