Aloha, and good morning, everyone. Welcome! Gene [Castagnetti, Cemetery Director], thank you for that kind introduction. Minister Park [Minister of Patriots and Veterans Affairs, Republic of Korea], thank you for your gracious gift of this memorial stone, honoring those Americans who gave their lives to defend Korea. Let me also recognize:
There is a special trust and friendship between Korea and the United States because so many of our young fought side-by-side six decades ago. And Korea's many thoughtful remembrances since, like this one, demonstrate the strength of our alliance today. Now, as then, Kap shi Kap si da! We go together!
On 27 July, 1953, an armistice went into effect all along the Korean Demilitarized Zone to end three years of aggression; three years of heroic defense by Korea, the U.S., and 20 other allies; and three years of incredible sacrifice by the people of the Republic of Korea.
Korea's "morning calm" was shattered early on 25 June, 1950, by the roar of artillery as over 100,000 North Korean troops violated the 38th parallel. As battle raged up and down the peninsula, Koreans and Americans fought both a determined foe and punishing elements—searing heat, bone-numbing cold, and deep winter snows that buried everything from narrow valleys to the steep, rugged ridgelines that staircased to the sky.
Nearly two million Americans served in Korea, fighting and dying in places like Chipyong-Ni, Pusan, and Chosin; on pieces of terrain nicknamed Pork Chop Hill and Heartbreak Ridge; and in other unnamed locations, known only by grid coordinates or hilltop elevations. We were all there—Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coastguardsmen—to deny the enemy the quick victory he sought and to punish 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 in captivity. From their ranks came a few whose acts of valor were so profound that each was awarded the Medal of Honor—136 in Korea, 98 of them posthumously. Among them:
Corporal Hiroshi "Hershey" Miyamura, U.S. Army, for conspicuous gallantry, 24 April 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 killing 10 of the enemy with his bayonet. He then expedited evacuation of the wounded and ordered the withdrawal of his squad, while he single-handedly manned the machine gun until it ran out of ammunition. Severely wounded, he held his ground—and was last seen by his comrades, fighting hand-to-hand 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 long, brutal captivity as a POW. For his valorous actions and conspicuous gallantry, Corporal Miyamura was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Then, on 4 and 5 September, 1952, while volunteering for a second continuous mission on a combat outpost line in Korea, well forward of the main battle area and under constant enemy artillery and mortar barrages, Private First Class Alford McLaughlin, Company l, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division, successfully defended his position by delivering devastating fires from his two machine guns and carbine against an attacking enemy battalion. Alternating his weapons and laying them on the earth to cool and keep from overheating, Private McLaughlin accounted for 150 enemy killed and 50 wounded that night. For his valorous actions and conspicuous gallantry, PFC McLaughlin was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Corporal Miyamura and PFC McLaughlin were just two of the 136 recipients of our Nation's highest award for valor during the Korean War. I believe that the recipients of the Medal of Honor would be the first to tell you that they were not the only heroes on the battlefields where they fought.
Today, on this hallowed ground, we recommit ourselves to remember, with deep 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, six decades ago, fought magnificently, many giving their lives to preserve freedom on a distant, war-torn peninsula.
They and their comrades kept faith with our founding principles and ideals; kept faith with Korea and our allies; and kept faith with one another. Today, a new generation of Americans keeps us the land of the free, the home of the brave, and the guardian of freedom and liberty.
God bless our men and women in uniform. God bless our Veterans. And may God continue to bless our great Nations.