Remembering Korean War with new monument in Hagerstown

June 23, 2013|By DAVE McMILLION |
  • Monument committee members and members of Antietam Chapter 312 of the Korean War Veterans Association in Hagerstown unveil the new Korean War monument Sunday at Potomac Avenue and Mealey Parkway in Hagerstown.
By Colleen McGrath/Staff Photographer

Eighty-four-year-old John Jackson sat by the memorial and remembered his days of fighting in the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War.

“It was not pretty at all, from the time I got there in August 1950 until October 1951,” the Hagerstown man said Sunday afternoon at the unveiling of a new Korean War monument at Potomac Avenue and Mealey Parkway.

Jackson talked about temperatures plummeting to 50 degrees below zero at the Chosin Reservoir and how thousands of soldiers fell victim to frostbite.

Jackson was among dozens of people who converged at the new memorial during a 2 p.m. ceremony to witness the unveiling of the monument by members of Antietam Chapter 312 of the Korean War Veterans Association. The monument consists of several stone monoliths and a tablet listing the names of 32 Washington County residents who were killed during the war.

A number of Korean War veterans joined the spectators.

Working as a heavy equipment mechanic for the 839th Engineer Aviation Battalion, Carl Paylor helped build the Osan air base in South Korea during the Korean War.

Paylor, of Hagerstown, said at Sunday’s ceremony that it is sad to know the Korean War is sometimes referred to as a forgotten conflict and he reflected for a moment on the horrific situations his colleagues faced.

“I feel for them,” Paylor said.

Jackson and Paylor, long removed from the horrors of the conflict, found themselves Sunday watching the unveiling of the monument on a beautiful summer afternoon in their home country.

But it was also a hot day, and some of those speaking at Sunday’s ceremony to touched on Korea’s weather extremes.

Although it has been 60 years since the Korean War, it was not forgotten Sunday.

Among the speakers was a representative of the Department of Defense’s 60th Anniversary of the Korean War Commemoration Committee.

John O’Brien, a senior staff officer in the Department of Defense, remembered the 531 Marylanders who were causalities during the war, the 88 who were missing in action and the 55 who were prisoners of war. O’Brien said members of his committee have traveled around the country to attend hundreds of events connected to the 60th anniversary of the Korean War.

“No place is too small or too remote to visit and thank (the veterans) and their families for their services,” he said.

O’Brien went on to cite other numbers, like the nearly 8,000 U.S. service members whose remains were never recovered as a result of the war.

“Each of those numbers was a citizen, a son, father, cousin, mother, brother, sister, someone who served so the nation of South Korea could remain free,” O’Brien said.

Antietam Chapter 312 of the Korean War Veterans Association conceived the idea for erecting a monument paying tribute to Washington County veterans of the Korean War. A committee was formed to design a monument, find a suitable location and raise money to build it.

The group originally set out to raise $70,000, but later changed it to $100,000.

Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, who worked to secure funding for the monument, spoke during Sunday’s ceremony.

From the podium, Donoghue pointed to the location of Hagerstown High School, saying it was where a majority of the Washington County Korean War veterans attended high school.

“This is long overdue,” Donoghue said of the memorial.

Donoghue said he often talks to high school students in Annapolis about liberty, freedom and what veterans did. He said he finds many of the students have limited knowledge of those issues.

Donoghue recalled asking one group of students what they knew about the Korean War. He said one student asked if Korea is the country that basketball star Dennis Rodman visited.

Donoghue said the student was correct and pressed the student about why Rodman was there.

The student presumed Rodman was there to teach the president about playing basketball, Donoghue said.

“I thought that was pretty pathetic,” Donoghue said.

Also speaking at the ceremony was Lt. Col Kang Moon Ho, assistant defense attaché for the Korean Embassy. He talked about the 32 county residents who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the war and said “the Korean people have never forgotten.”

The 32 names were read during the ceremony and a bell was rung once for each.

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