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Korean, Vietnam veterans are focus of Pa. ceremony

November 13, 2007|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Men and women from Franklin and Cumberland counties have served in this nation's wars since before it became the United States - from the French and Indian War and the Revolution to the ongoing fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But veterans of two of this country's most controversial conflicts were singled out Monday for Veterans Day honors.

More than 160 veterans of the Korean and Vietnam wars, along with about an equal number of friends and family, gathered in the Chambersburg Area Senior High School auditorium to receiving medallions from the state that were inscribed with "Honoring America's Bravest" from state Rep. Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin/Cumberland.

Some of them, like Harry Ott of Chambersburg, served in World War II and Korea. Others were veterans of both Korea and Vietnam.

"For many, many years, Veterans Day was sort of overlooked," said Sal Russo of Chambersburg, who served with 114th Graves Registration Co. in Korea from 1952 to 1954. Often, he said, the observances tended to concentrate mostly on those who served during World War II.

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"I was glad to see them pay tribute to the people who served in Korea and Vietnam," he said.

Korea is often referred to as the "Forgotten War," Kauffman told the audience, but those who served there and in Vietnam were buttresses against the expansion of communism, he said.

"Poor is the nation that has no heroes. Shameful is the nation that has them and forgets," Kauffman said.

More than 100,000 members of the armed forces died during the periods covered by those conflicts, more than 80,000 of them battle deaths, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. That exceeds the number of battle deaths in all of America's wars to date with the exceptions of the Civil War, World War I and World War II.

Monday's ceremony was similar to one Kauffman hosted last year, honoring World War II veterans. While the ceremony was for veterans from his district, which includes portions of Franklin and Cumberland counties, Franklin County alone sent more than 2,510 sons and daughters to serve during the Korean War and more than 3,100 during Vietnam, according to plaques that surround the fountain on Memorial Square.

"Any morning we wake up free, it's because of men and women like you," Letterkenny Army Depot Commander Col. Steven A. Shapiro said. Today, more than 1.4 million men and women of the armed forces are doing the same in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.

"These veterans answer the call to duty and put their boots on the ground," Shapiro said.

Among the veterans are those who were born and raised elsewhere, but retired in this area. Men such as Jerry Blackford of Chambersburg, who spent 21 years in the U.S. Army.

"Out of all the places I've been stationed in my life ... Pennsylvania is one of the most patriotic," the Louisiana native said. "Whether military or retired military, the respect given you is almost incredible."

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