Korean War vets receive medals recognizing their service
They might walk a little slower than they did 60-some years ago when their boots met the Korean Peninsula, but they move with the same resolve and determination.
The names of more than 100 Korean War veterans were read Saturday in Eureka at a ceremony to remember the men and women who served during what some have called “The Forgotten War.”
Bob Palmrose said he was pleasantly surprised when he was notified by mail that he would be receiving a medal bestowed by the South Korean government’s Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs.
“I thought that was pretty nice, and maybe we’re not so forgotten,” the 85-year-old Eureka resident said.
North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, was on hand for the ceremony as the vets received the Korean Ambassador for Peace Medal at the Adorni Center.
“At least 2.5 million people lost their lives in this war, and that includes 36,000 Americans. More than 92,000 Americans were injured,” Huffman told the more than 250 people in attendance. “To this day, there are more than 7,800 American soldiers who were never accounted for.”
Among those receiving medals was Douglas Durham, who told the crowd he was happy to see his comrades honored, “those who are here, and those who are not here.”
Huffman credited medal winners for defending democracy in South Korea and protecting a nation that today is a successful economic power in Asia.
“The Korean War definitely did not receive the same level of public attention as World War II or the Vietnam War that followed it,” Huffman said. “We have not forgotten those who served in this very important war. The people of the Republic of Korea certainly have not forgotten.”
Eureka City Councilwoman Natalie Arroyo then read the names of those being honored, starting with James Armstrong and ending with Robert Wright. The names included Patricia Newell of Eureka, who accepted her own medal and the one for her late husband, William. Both Newells served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War.
Francis Armstrong accepted the medal for her husband, a retired educator and longtime McKinleyville resident who died in 2012. Wright, an 89-year-old Orick resident, was the last to walk forward, accept his medal and shake Huffman’s hand.
Other medals were accepted by wives, children and grandchildren of the Humboldt County vets. Among the crowd was sprinkled the navy blue jackets of the Redwood Chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association, which meets on the second Saturday every month at the Humboldt Grange.
The medals bear the inscription “You will always be our hero.” The official proclamations accompanying the medals have the name of Han Dong-man, South Korea’s consul general.
“It is a great honor and pleasure to express the everlasting gratitude of the Republic of Korea and our people for the service you and your countrymen have performed in restoring and preserving our freedom and democracy,” the proclamation reads. “We cherish in our hearts the memory of your boundless sacrifices in helping us re-establish our free nation.”
Huffman admitted that some veterans were overlooked in this round of medal presentations, but another ceremony would take place when the additional honorees are identified.
“We are going to be back,” Huffman said.