Korean War Memorial needs help with upkeep

A retired teacher boosts effort

Every Memorial Day, Harrison Twp. resident Margaret Baird makes two trips — she visits the Vietnam Memorial by the Stewart Street Bridge, then the Korean War Memorial on Riverside Drive, next to Temple Israel.

A retired Dayton teacher, Baird holds the Vietnam Memorial dear since two of her students were killed in that war. “But this Memorial Day my big experience was at the Korean War Memorial, where a man came up to talk with me,” she said.

“He’s a member of the area Korean community, and I learned that I have been totally off about the memorial. It is the Ohio Korean Memorial, and I thought it was subsidized by the state, and that, being on the point with Five Rivers MetroPark, was maintained by the park district. But I learned that no maintenance services come from the state, county or city.”

The man she’d met was Segon Jang, who was born in Korea in 1946, just before the Korean War broke out in1950. “My family came to the U.S. in 1974, and to Dayton in 1976,” he said.

In 1988, Korean War veterans planned the memorial, and in 1990, the City of Dayton provided the land and a grant, matched by the county, to build the memorial, which was designated by the state as the site for the Ohio Korean War Veterans Memorial and All Veterans Walkway.

Grady Mullins, an electrician with the Dayton Building and Construction Trades Council at the time, donated his services, along with members of other trade unions.

Now retired, Mullins recalls working there when it was built. “Dodd’s Monuments did the work, and I helped wire and put the lights up. I was a delegate for the council, working with Wagner Smith at the time, and we donated trucks, poles and labor.

“I was officer of the International Brothers of Electrical Workers, and we all helped get it done.”

Dedicated in 1995, the memorial features a granite statue representing all of our armed forces, memorials with the names of Ohioans who lost their lives in that war, and an All Veterans Walkway etched with the names of the 8,182 missing in action.

No funds were allocated for upkeep, so Korean War veterans initially kept up the property.

“But those veterans were getting older and dying, so they contacted us, the Dayton Area Korean Association, to take it over,” said Jang.

“Now, we’re getting old — we have some younger members helping us, but they work during the day so are limited.”

In addition to continued maintenance, Baird and Jang are concerned with vandalism. “I saw scratch marks over the names on the walkway this year, and Mr. Jang told me that people were skateboarding onto the granite pieces inscribed with names of those who died in Korea,” said Baird.

Shawn Herzog, business agent for Bricklayers Union 22 that donated and installed the bricks and granite memorials, came out to inspect the damage with Mullins. Bricks were broken and names chipped, black “scuff” marks from skateboards framed granite edges, and a bench had been overturned to use as a jumping off spot.

“Building sites in other cities are having the same problems with skateboarders,” he told Jang, Baird and Man P. Han, president of the Dayton Area Koreans Association, who was also there to inspect the damage. Kamco Supply recently installed what he calls skateboard prevention “pucks” on all the “hotspots” for skateboarders around the new downtown Dayton library.

He estimated that to install the “pucks” around the bricks, granite memorials and benches at the Korean War Memorial in the same way would cost from $7,000-$14,000, depending on labor charges.

“This is the official Ohio Korean Memorial, the only one on the mainland,” Jang said. “The only other Korean War Memorial in the United States is in Hawaii.”

Baird was incensed and saddened. “So much was done as charitable work, and I admire the community for all the gifting to create the memorial,” she said. “But now, we have people of the community destroying the memorial.”

A few skateboarders have been identified, and police are keeping an eye on the site, but Jang and the others feel that the protective measures noted by Herzog would be most effective.

Anyone interested in donating to that effort can drop off donations to a PNC bank for the DAKA Korean War Memorial Fund. And, anyone willing to volunteer to help clean up litter or maintain the area can contact Jang at 937-477-1402.

Contact this writer at virgburroughs@gmail.com.

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