By Cherish T. Gilmore, Army Materiel Command Public AffairsNovember 14, 2017
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Team Redstone leaders joined the community to honor the service and legacy of Korean War Veterans at the Summit here, Thursday, Nov. 9.
Decades ago, the United States joined the fight against North Korea; today, nearly 200 people gathered to remember the sacrifices of those that fought, died and survived at the 12th annual Korean War Veterans Luncheon.
"As we head into our 64th anniversary of the armistice, we honor the 5.7 million Americans who served in the Korean War," said the commander of Army Materiel Command, Gen. Gus Perna, who served as the guest speaker. "We remember the more than 33,000 who fell in battle including the 23 names inscribed on the Huntsville / Madison County Veterans Memorial Wall."
Perna recognized and shared the stories of a few of the Korean War Veterans in attendance, like Herman Hilmes and Newton Duke.
In June 1953, Hilmes was carrying a wounded Soldier to safety when the bible he was carrying in his pocket was struck by a bullet and saved his life. Duke survived 27 months as a prisoner of war and despite the odds, received a letter from a friend, Carolyn. On his return, they married and are still married today.
"The US News and World Report tried to put a label on the war and hence defined it the forgotten war -- a misnomer at the very least," said Perna. "This is not a forgotten war. This is a war where men and women sacrificed to protect our rights. It is not forgotten; it is crucial in our history, and you are to be thanked for all that you did."
There are generations of South Koreans that are able to live in freedom because of our veterans, Perna reiterated.
The luncheon was hosted by the Legacy 4 Korean War Veterans Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization established in January 2011 by Sam and K.C. Bertling in honor of Korean War veterans.
K.C.'s desire to share a hot meal with veterans started while she was in elementary school in South Korea. She would give her lunch to a homeless Korean War Veteran.
"I didn't have much, but whenever my mother was able to pack a little lunch for me, I would take it to him during school lunch time when no one was watching," she said. "To this day, I really don't know why I did it."
After the man passed away, K.C. said she promised herself she would share a hot meal with veterans when she had the means to do so.
The Bertlings hosted the first luncheon with just six Korean War Veterans in 2006. Today, the annual luncheon is attended by Redstone Arsenal leadership, retired general officers and civilians, community leaders and dozens of Korean War Veterans. In addition to the annual luncheon, the foundation sponsors Revisit Korea, a weeklong, expense-paid visit to South Korea for veterans of the Korean War.
For more information, visit legacy4koreanwarveterans.org.