Sixty years after coming home, North Carolina’s Korean War veterans were recently honored in Mint Hill.Those veterans of what many call the “Forgotten War” will never be forgotten again, thanks to the North Carolina Korean War Veterans Memorial on N.C. 218, just off Interstate 485. Organizers say it’s the only memorial in the state dedicated to Korean War veterans. “The Korean War ... was sandwiched between World War II where soldiers were welcomed home with great fanfare and Vietnam where soldiers were treated shabbily when they returned. We got no attention, good or bad, when we came home,” said Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Bill Reid, who served during the Korean War. “We wanted to recognize the 788 from North Carolina, part of the 53,000 from across the country, that made the ultimate sacrifice. We don’t want them to be forgotten.” The $900,000 memorial is complete thanks to seven years of planning and work by Reid, Don Putnam, and other members of Chapter 265 of the N.C. Korean War Veteran’s Association based in Indian Trail. Individuals and businesses from around the world donated financial and in-kind services, and the town of Mint Hill offered land in the park. Several weeks ago, elected officials even renamed the park Mint Hill Veterans Memorial Park. The new park sign was unveiled on Nov. 9 when almost 800 veterans, family members, and others gathered there for the ribbon cutting and dedication. The ceremony was not only a dedication of the monument, but also a reminder of the unique bond shared by the United States and the Republic of Korea. The crowd rose for the posting of the flags of both countries and remained standing for the singing of both national anthems. Musician and composer Neal Davenport performed an original song he wrote for the occasion. He Beom Kim, Consul General of the Republic of Korea, thanked the veterans for their service. “Our debt to you is one we can never repay. Thank you so much,” Kim said. Brian Boze, Commander of VFW Post 2423 in Indian Trail, told the veterans that their sacrifice and service six decades ago truly made a difference. “There’s an old saying, ‘We plant the seeds of trees whose shade of which we will never sit under.’ Well, for those who live in South Korea, that shade of freedom, 60 years later, is still growing strong,” Boze said. After the ceremony, folks looked for their engraved pavers, reading the names of the fallen soldiers listed on the pillars, and remembering what it was like serving on foreign soil. Korean War veteran Randal Bishop, 81, said the memorial helped validate the service he gave to his country more than a half century ago. “It makes you feel good, like you did something worthwhile,” said Bishop. Putnam said all the veterans he talked to said they were honored to be remembered. “One of them told me that he had traveled to different Korean War Memorials across the country and that this was the most touching one he had visited,” Putnam said. Mint Hill Mayor Ted Biggers said he is honored to have the memorial in the town, and hopes it will serve as a reminder of both freedom and sacrifice to all those who pass by. He said retired Navy Captain Young Chang Ha captured his feelings and those of many others in the crowd during the invocation.“May this memorial remind us that the freedom we enjoy today has never been free,” he said.
Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013
N.C. gets memorial to Korean War vets
Want to go? The Korean War Veterans Memorial is in Mint Hill Veterans Memorial Park at the intersection of N.C. 218 and I-485. The park is open daily, 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Want to contribute? Organizers must still raise about $140,000 to pay off their loan. Pavers, priced at price $200-$,1000, are available, and may be engraved to honor veterans of any war. Flowering trees with markers are also available for $1,000 each. Details: www.koreanwarmemorialnc.com.
What does it look like? The memorial, patterned after the Republic of Korea flag, has a red and blue fountain in the middle flanked by four tall granite pillars listing the names of those who died. Two large granite soldiers stand at attention on pedestals at the perimeter of the circle. Curved brick walls with planters on top link all the elements together. The area is surrounded by granite pavers and benches that are engraved with the names of service men and women from all wars.
Melinda Johnston is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Melinda? Email her at email@example.com.
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