Final luncheon salutes veterans of Korean War
October 20, 2010
A Redstone worker wants to say thank you one last time to the Soldiers who liberated her Korea homeland almost 60 years ago.
KC Bertling, a program analyst in the military personnel division at SMDC/ARSTRAT, was only a toddler when American forces entered Korea to protect the southern half of that country from approaching Communist forces. She doesn't remember much, but she does remember seeing pictures and hearing stories of the brave Americans who sacrificed for her freedom.
"Korea was so poor, so oppressed. The Japanese had destroyed our country. We couldn't do much... but I always thought that one day... I would love to meet these men and to share a meal with them... to thank them for coming to my country and fighting for us," Bertling said.
So for the last five years, that's exactly what she has done through her Korean War Veterans Luncheons. Bertling has annually invited Korean War veterans to a local restaurant to share a free meal with each other, wounded warriors and community leaders. In addition to the food and fellowship, the veterans have also enjoyed entertainment by a guest speaker and a slide show of modern day Korea, presented by Bertling. The event is funded solely by Bertling and her husband, Sam, also a Redstone worker.
The reunion is always a bittersweet experience for the veterans and for Bertling. One of her favorite memories is of a veteran in attendance two years ago who had lost his leg in combat. When he joked that, "I loved Korea so much that I left my leg there," Bertling said she cried. He has not attended since, and Bertling fears he may have since died.
In fact, the age and mortality rate of the veterans, coupled with the difficulties they face in traveling to the luncheons, are among the reasons that Bertling has decided to end the project after this year. But she has other plans to honor the men of the "Forgotten War": she hopes to establish an "Honor Flight" of sorts for them. She wants to take them to Korea, or at least to see the Korean Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. She has already begun enlisting donors for her cause. "These men lost so much in a war that was not even for their country," she said. "If they had not succeeded, only God knows what would have happened. Even if only one shows up at this luncheon, I will still be greatly honored by his presence."
The fifth and final Korean War Veterans luncheon is Nov. 16 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Carrabba's Italian Restaurant, 2801 South Memorial Parkway. Guest speaker will be retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Frank Libutti. For more information and to reserve seats, call Bertling at 541-0450.