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Veterans Crisis Line Badge

Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

Remarks by Secretary Eric K. Shinseki

Korean War Veterans Annual Recognition Day Ceremonies
Washington, DC
June 27, 2009

Colonel Stoy, thank you for that kind introduction.  Good morning, everyone, and welcome on behalf of the President of the United States. 

Fifty-six years ago today, the guns fell silent along the Korean Demilitarized Zone.  This Korean War Memorial is a moving tribute to the extraordinary courage and sacrifice by ordinary citizens of both of our countries, and our allies, who, almost six decades ago, fought to preserve freedom and liberty and defeat the forces of tyranny and oppression.

A proud and ancient land, Korea’s “morning calm” was shattered early on June 25th, 1950, by the roar of artillery as more than 100,000 North Korean Troops violated the 38th parallel in a bid for domination. 

We gather today, as in years past, to pay homage to those who fought, bled, died, went missing, and suffered brutal captivity.  They fought both a determined foe and the punishing elements—sweltering heat; bone-numbing cold; and deep winter snows that buried everything from narrow valleys to steep, rugged ridgelines stair-casing to the sky.  Freedom is not free, and theirs was the price of liberty laid on the altar of freedom .

Nearly two million Americans served in Korea, fighting and dying in places they called Pork Chop Hill and Heartbreak Ridge; in towns and places like Chipyong-ni, Pusan, and Chosin Reservoir; and in unnamed locations known only by grid coordinates or hilltop elevations.  All our uniforms were there—Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coastguardsmen—denying the enemy a quick victory and then punishing him for miscalculating.

The fighting was ferocious:  54,246 Americans gave their lives; more than 103,000 were wounded; over 8,000 went missing, and more than 7,000 were captured, 40 percent of whom died horrifically in captivity.  From their ranks came a few who performed acts of valor so profound that they have given themselves up to the ages because of their indomitable spirit.  They are, of course, recipients of our Nation’s highest military award for valor, the Medal of Honor, 131 awarded for combat action in Korea, 94 of them posthumously.  Among them were:

Corporal Hiroshi “Hershey” Miyamura, U.S. Army, a World War II Veteran, who volunteered for Korea, for conspicuous gallantry on April 24th , 1951, near Taejon-ni.  When a massive enemy attack threatened to overrun his company’s defense, Corporal Miyamura fended off the attack in his sector by downing 10 of the enemy with his bayonet in hand-to-hand fighting.  Under continuing assault, he aided the wounded, expedited their evacuation, and then ordered the remainder of his squad to withdraw while he single-handedly manned his machine gun until it ran out of ammunition.  Severely wounded, he held his ground and was last seen by his comrades in a hand-to-hand fight against an overwhelming number of the enemy.  He personally killed 50 of the enemy that night, saved the members of his squad, and managed to survive severe injury and a long, brutal captivity as a prisoner of war.

Private First Class Alford McLaughlin, Company l, 3d Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division, for conspicuous gallantry on the night of September 4th to 5th, 1952.  Volunteering for a second continuous mission on a strategic combat outpost line far in advance of the main battle area, Private McLaughlin successfully defended his position under enemy artillery and mortar barrages by delivering devastating fires from his two machine guns and carbine on enemy forces attacking in battalion strength.  Laying his weapons on the cool earth to keep them from overheating, Private McLaughlin accounted for 150 enemy killed and 50 wounded that night.

 

Captain John Walmsly, U.S. Air Force, 8th Bombardment Squadron, 3d Bomb Group for conspicuous gallantry on September 14th, 1951, near Yangdok.  While flying a B-26 night combat mission, Captain Walmsley sighted an enemy supply train and immediately attacked the top priority target, striking and disabling it.  Out of ammunition, he radioed friendly aircraft in the area to complete its destruction.  Employing his searchlight, he aligned himself with, and illuminated the train to give full visibility of the target.  Refusing to use evasive maneuvers, he exposed himself repeatedly to heavy enemy antiaircraft fire to ensure destruction of the enemy supply train.  During his last run, Captain Walmsley's plane was hit and disabled, crashing into the surrounding mountains and exploding upon impact.   

 

Hospital Corpsman John Kilmer, United States Navy, for conspicuous gallantry on August 13th, 1952, while attached to a rifle company, 1st Marine Division.  Defending a vitally important hill, well forward of the main battle area, his rifle company was attacked by a large enemy force.  Corpsman Kilmer repeatedly braved intense enemy mortar, artillery, and sniper fire to move from position-to-position, administering aid to wounded Marines and expediting their evacuation.  Painfully wounded himself, while moving to aid a casualty, he crawled through a hail of enemy shells falling all around him, to the side of a stricken Marine.  Undaunted by the devastating fires, he skillfully treated his comrade and, when another barrage of mortar shells fell, covered the wounded man with his own body, saving the Marine, but giving his life in the process, inspiring all who observed him.   

 

Today, on this hallowed ground, we, who gather here, recommit ourselves to remember, with respect and gratitude, what the Korean people have never forgotten.  The guarantors of the democracy that is, today, the prosperous Republic of Korea were the young, who gave so preciously, nearly 60 years ago, to defend freedom and liberty on a distant, war-torn peninsula.

 

They and their comrades kept faith with the principles and ideals on which America was founded; and they kept faith with one another.  Veterans of the Korean War—we salute you.  

 

Today, a new generation of Americans walks in their boots.  And because they do, this country remains the land of the free and the home of the brave, and the guardian of freedom and liberty for others. 

 

God bless our men and women in uniform.  God bless our Veterans.  god bless America and her allies.       

 

Thank you.