By Wallace McBride, Fort Jackson LeaderJuly 15, 2013
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- As the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War approaches, Honor Flight of South Carolina is reaching out to veterans to participate in a celebration of their contributions and sacrifices.
"Honor Flight recognizes that the Korean War veterans are our nation's forgotten heroes," said Honor Flight South Carolina spokesman Frank Adams. "Unlike World War II, there were no parades when they came home after courageously turning back communist aggression."
The Honor Flight event for Korean War veterans takes place at 10 a.m., Monday at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. The scheduled guest speakers include U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Eugene Chin Yu, national president of the Federation of Korean Americans Associations. Entertainment will be provided by the 308th Army Band and the Palmetto Mastersingers.
July 27 marks the 60th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended hostilities in North and South Korea, and established the Demilitarized Zone at the 38th Parallel. Monday's event in Columbia serves as a prelude to the national event on July 27, Adams said.
The Honor Flight Network is a non-profit organization created to honor America's veterans by flying them to Washington, D.C. to visit and reflect at their memorials. Priority is given to the senior veterans, particularly World War II survivors, along with other veterans who are terminally ill.
"Our World War II veterans are fading away," Adams said. "An 18 year-old fighting in 1945 would be 86 today. Similarly, an 18 year-old fighting in Korea would be 80 today. Many of our World War II vets fought in the Korean War."
He said more than 400 people involved with veterans groups around South Carolina have already committed to attending the July 15 event.
A certificate of appreciation signed by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will be presented to Korean War veterans who were part of a recent honor flight. Names and addresses of Korean War veterans who have not been on an honor flight will be collected and documented, so that arrangements can be made to send a certificate of appreciation to their home address.
A representative from the Republic of Korea will also present Korean Service Medals to 100 veterans who saw action in the Korean War between 1950 and1953.
"We are committed to the belief that as long as South Carolinians are so generous and dedicated to honoring our aging veterans, we will keep honor flights flying," Adams said. "We are now moving beyond the recognition of our World War II veterans and beginning to honor the sacrifices of our Korean War veterans. Our Korean War veterans are our focus, but our World War II veterans will remain our priority."
Adams said part of the goal of next week's celebration is to bring together Korean War veterans so they can be recognized by DoD.
"Many of our remaining World War II veterans are physically unable to make our flights, which are emotional journeys that begin before dawn in order to make an 8 o'clock flight to a day filled with memories and monuments and bonding with other veterans before a homecoming ceremony 12 hours later," Adams said.
Honor Flight has conducted 18 flights during the past four years, each flight supported by personal, organizational and corporate donations.
"All World War II veterans have been flown free of charge (so) that they can see the monuments a grateful nation has erected to them," Adams said. "Guardians pay a $500 fee for the privilege of accompanying these veterans."