CHIPYONG-NI, Republic of Korea - Almost 70 years later, many still come together to highlight a battle where service members of different nationalities fought together to defeat a mutual enemy.
Soldiers past and present, distinguished guests, and friends attended the 68th anniversary commemoration for the Battle of Chipyong-ni at the Chipyong-ni Combat Monument and Memorial Hall, Feb. 21.
Brig. Gen. Stephen J. Maranian, guest speaker and deputy commanding general-maneuver, 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-U.S. Combined Division, explained how it felt to attend the commemorative event.
"It is an honor for me to say a few words to represent the 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-United States Combined Division," said the Boston, Massachusetts native. "Last Wednesday, February 13th, marked the 68th anniversary of the first battle where American forces (alongside South Korean and French forces) defeated the Chinese, which as it's been said, led to a major turning point in the war."
The U.S., South Korean and French forces had suffered heavy fatalities at the hands of the Chinese.
"During the three-day battle, Soldiers of 23rd Regimental Combat Team, commanded by, then, Col. Paul Lamar Freeman, who after the war became the 2nd Infantry Division commanding general, bore the brunt of the fighting," said Maranian.
Freeman ordered his Soldiers to hold the crossroads town of Chipyong-ni.
The Chinese People's Volunteer Army, determined to take the town, sent three divisions to destroy the city, but after three days of fighting, the United Nations successfully forced the enemy to retreat.
"Fifty-four hundred Soldiers of the 2nd Infantry Division engaged and decisively defeated thirty to forty-thousand Chinese soldiers," said Maranian. "A true act of Warrior spirit, drive, resilience and valor."
Many of the veterans fought back tears as they remembered the sacrifices they made on this hallowed ground.
"I think about those who fought bravely and I'm glad to be here and ensure we never forget them," said Mr. Park, Dung Ha, former riflemen, 3rd Platoon, 2nd Company, French Foreign Legion. "If it was not for our French Battalion and U.S Army 23rd Infantry Regiment, (2ID) the turn-out of the war might have been different."
Although today is bittersweet, Park said he was proud to attend the annual event.
"I personally feel honored whenever I get invited to these kinds of victory ceremonies," he said. "Many still don't know about the details of this battle. Through various events like this, we hope that they learn the true nature of the war and never forget the sacrifices we made to protect this country."
The ceremony concluded as Maranian and Command Sgt. Major Michael Oliver, senior enlisted adviser of the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division (Rotational), and Detroit, Michigan native, rendered honors to a ceremonial wreath, laid by Lt. Gen. Eui Cheol Yoon, commanding general, 7th Corps Republic of Korea-Army, at the base of the Chipyong-ni Combat Monument.
"As we remember the battle, let us reflect upon our historic sacrifices and contributions of these Soldiers who safeguarded Korea's liberties and independence," said Maranian. "With the continued support of our Korean allies this was an historic moment in the enduring and ironclad alliance between our great nations in blood and steel and enduring stronger than ever almost 70 years later."