Korean War veterans memorialized during Dayton ceremony

Scores of people turned out to the Korean Veterans Memorial in Riverbend Park Sunday to pay tribute to members of the U.S. military who served during the conflict and made the ultimate sacrifice.

“It’s hard to go back 73 years and imagine on this day in 1950, a bitter three-year war, began the invasion of South Korean by North Korea,” said Dayton VA Chief of Staff Dr. Tom Hardy at Dayton’s annual Korean War Veterans Memorial Ceremony. “It was a terrible war.”

During the war, which lasted three years, more than 37,000 Americans were killed in action, more than 100,000 were wounded and more than 8,100 are missing in action, Hardy said.

“The toll on the South Korean people is almost beyond measure and it is a credit to their resilience and to their courage that they have rebuilt such a bulwark for democracy in Southeast Asia,” Hardy said.

Congressman Mike Turner said if not for the “courageous and heroic” intervention of American troops, the citizens of South Korea may still have been suffering along with their North Korean neighbors.

“Instead of a closed society where famine is a regular occurrence, and citizens are denied the most fundamental freedoms, the people of South Korea enjoy a vibrant democracy,” Turner said. “South Korea lives today in the relative peace with its neighbors and has the 10th largest economy in the world.”

Col. Christopher Meeker, commander of the 88th Air Base Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, said when America’s sons and daughters go to war for the United States, not all of them come home, something that he said has “generational impacts on family members.”

“I want to vow to ... our veterans, our military retirees and our Gold Star family members that at Wright-Patt, we take our responsibility to support you and to serve you very seriously,” he said. “We have many programs. We have a very tight relationship with the Dayton VA, all of our local veterans associations, and we put a lot of resources into trying to make sure we take care of those who have served this country and the family members who’ve lost a loved one in the business of the armed forces.

Meeker asked the crowd if there was anyone who served during the Korean War. Rising from his seat was 91-year-old Jack Beckman, of Seattle, who served for 28 years in the U.S. Army, including a year in Korea (1950) and a year in Vietnam (1969).

Meeker then presented Beckman with a commander’s coin, a way for senior leadership to show their appreciation

“It was such an honor ... with Korea truly being considered ‘the Forgotten War,’ for him to receive the honors that he did today,” said Beckman’s son, Sean, of Lebanon, a 24-year U.S. Navy veteran. “It was just really an honor for me to be able to attend this with him.”

Sunkwi Stewart, president of the Dayton Area Korean Association, said the organization appreciates the sacrifice of all who served in the U.S. military during the conflict.

“We honor all those who died, were injured or missing and unaccounted for,” Stewart said. “We are forever thankful for your sacrifice in the fight (against) communism. They are in our hearts and minds and we will never forget.”

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