By Dan Thompson (USAG-Yongsan)June 9, 2009
YONGSAN GARRISON, Republic of Korea -- Just as President Barack Obama and European leaders were descending on Normandy, France, to commemorate the 65th anniversary of D-Day, U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan Commander Col. Dave Hall and an entourage of Soldiers and civilians recently visited the Yanghwajin Foreign Missionary Cemetery in Seoul, June 5, on a goodwill mission to honor American veterans buried here.
Hall was joined by Command Sgt. Maj. Ralph Rusch in laying flowers at veterans' graves there. More than eight American and Korean Soldiers from the garrison's Headquarters Company trimmed grass and picked up debris on the graves. Veterans of Foreign Wars member and USAG-Yongsan Human Resources Director Bob Clifton ensured each grave was honored with an American flag.
Soldiers sweated heavily under a humid, sunny sky while plucking weeds atop the graves. When asked if he needed a break, Sgt. Byron McGainey declined the offer. "I consider this an honor," he said. "This is nothing compared to what they sacrificed for us."
Just a month ago, more than 20 graves belonging to American military veterans rested among tall grass under dour grey skies. Many of the graves belong to combat veterans of World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam. Their government-issue tombstones were barely noticeable in the little-known cemetery.
That all changed with the help of U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan and the cooperation of the Yanghwajin Foreign Missionary Cemetery management last week as the garrison, cemetery management, and anonymous visitors teamed up to tidy up the site.
"It is truly unusual to have American servicemembers, especially combat veterans, buried right here in Seoul," said Hall. "Now that there is more awareness of them, we'll make sure they are never forgotten"
Cemetery manager Jung Yong-sub, who served as a noncommissioned officer in the Republic of Korea Army and received training at Fort Monmouth, N.J., understands the importance of honoring those who served, he said. "We are very happy to have this friendship and want to assure everyone that we will honor the memory of anyone buried here and preserve their memory for future generations," he said.
Both the Yanghwajin Foreign Missionary Cemetery and the garrison have agreed to cooperate in cataloging more information about those American servicemembers buried there.
Visitors interested in paying their respects to the hidden U.S. heroes of the Seoul Missionary Cemetery may visit Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The cemetery is located about 200 meters from the Hapjeong subway station (line two). Brown signs in English lead visitors in towards the cemetery and subway station maps clearly indicate its location.
"Anyone interested in visiting the cemetery is welcome," Jung said.
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