Story by Kari Hawkins on 04/08/2019HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Appreciation for 60 Korean War Veterans was served with an honorary peace medal and remarks from one of the Army's top general officers during the 14th annual Korean War Veterans Luncheon April 4.
"Sixty-eight years ago today, the Battle of Seoul ended," Gen. Gus Perna, commanding general of the Army Materiel Command, told the more than 300 veterans and family members who attended the luncheon at the Huntsville Marriott.
"The final Battle of Seoul ended the tyranny of many other countries and the aggressor of the North into the South. Korean War Veterans created a safe haven in the South, the part of Korea that is still free today. Some of the veterans in this room today were probably there in the spring of 1951. Today, Seoul is a city of nearly 10 million people who are proud citizens of a growing economy."
But, the true reason for the sacrifices of Korean War Veterans, Perna said, was more than just to ensure a strong economy in that part of the world.
"What Korean War Veterans did was a direct reflection of what right is," Perna said. "You created a beacon of what right looks like. The whole world can see the relationship you helped to build, a relationship that is strong, a relationship that builds up each country based on trust, confidence, and the individual and collective courage of our people."
Hosted by the Legacy 4 Korean War Veterans Foundation, the luncheon highlight was the first-ever presentation in Huntsville of the Korean Ambassador for Peace Medal to veterans. While Koreans are grateful for the U.S. commitment during the Korean War of 1950-53, that appreciation is also felt throughout the world as other nations look to South Korea as a free country in East Asia, Perna said.
"The efforts of Korean War Veterans created freedom that has been sustained for 68 years," he said. "Their efforts allow us to move forward in peace. Because of the partnership we have sustained, Korea will only get stronger."
Those veterans also set an example that inspires today's Soldiers, he said.
"It is a great honor for me to be here today to show appreciation to you," Perna said. "I am proud to serve behind you, and keep up the legacy of what you did and for what you stand for."
Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle emphasized the connection that local Korean War Veterans have given the community, using as an example the bridge on Old Madison Pike that connects Huntsville and Madison, named for Korean War Veterans.
"The bridge connects two communities, two economies, two people very much like the bridge you built that connects Korea and our nation," Battle said. "We are honored to be able to work with South Koreans and make it a great city. Thank you for your service. You have made the world a better place."
The Korean Ambassador for Peace Medal was presented to the 60 veterans in the audience by Young-jun Kim, the Korean Consul General for the Southeast U.S. In his remarks, he said South Koreans will never forget the American service members who fought for their freedom.
"The Korean War is often called the Forgotten War," Kim said. "But I want to assure you the Korean people have not forgotten you or your sacrifices. This medal is a reminder of your bravery and sacrifice."
Since the Korean War, South Korea has transformed itself into the sixth largest trade partner with the U.S.
"You deserve to share the same pride that the Korean people have kept in their hearts. The Korean War has taught us that we are strong when we stand as one. The alliance between the U.S. and Korea will ensure freedom on the Korean peninsula and throughout the world."
The first Korean War Veterans luncheon was hosted in 2006 by KC Bertling, a native Korean, and her husband Sam. It has grown larger every year since.
"KC and Sam are a remarkable couple who have taken it upon themselves to honor our Korean War Veterans with a luncheon for the past 14 years," Perna said. "They have selflessnessly sacrificed a great deal to do this for one reason to honor those who served during the Korean War. Thank you for what you have done to honor and preserve the legacy of those who fought and served."
Other groups supporting the luncheon included Hyosung USA, Inc., the 1st Patriot Support Corp reenactment group, the Twickenham Jazz Band and the Hazel Green High School (Navy) JROTC Unit.