CAMP HENRY, Republic of Korea – Even though he’s stationed in Korea and considers himself a history buff, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Richard Gilmore was still shocked to discover how little he knew of the sacrifices made during the Korean War.
“I didn’t realize all these countries participated [in the war],” said Gilmore, Distribution Management Center, 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command. “Now that I’ve gotten educated on Korea and the history of the Korean War, it’s a big eye-opener.”
Gilmore had just finished a tour of the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Korea, the only UN-designated cemetery in the world, and a striking tribute to the fallen of the Korean War. With Gilmore were 30 Soldiers from 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, who visited the cemetery in Busan and the nearby UN Peace Memorial Hall.
Organized as a spiritual resilience training event by the 19th ESC Chaplain’s Office, the trip to Busan aimed to connect Soldiers to Korean and military heritage.
“Soldiers come to Korea, many for their first tour in the Army, and it’s important for them to get a perspective on the reason they’re here,” said Ch. (Maj.) Curtis Sutherland, family life chaplain, 19th ESC. “It’s a great opportunity to learn about the Korean War, to put it in perspective and see the price that was paid.”
After the North Korean People’s Army invaded the Republic of Korea in June 1950, a UN force of 16 nations was formed in response. The American military was the largest contingent of the 16, but there were heavy casualties for every nation that responded.
Temporary UN cemeteries were established during the war, but in 1955 a resolution was adopted by the UN to designate the site in Busan as the permanent burial ground and memorial.
Visitors to the cemetery will see burial plots for each representative nation at an unknown soldier memorial called the Unknown Soldier’s Pathway and the Wall of Remembrance. On the wall are the names of every fallen service member from the war, similar to the design of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.
“The wall was really inspirational,” said Gilmore. “It’s a good way to learn, so we don’t make the same mistakes from the past.”
Before arriving at the cemetery, the 19th ESC Soldiers visited the UN Peace Memorial Hall and toured the newly-opened Project Soldier photography gallery, which features contemporary photos of Korean War veterans wearing their original uniforms.
While the trip educated Soldiers on the history of Korea and what the toll of the Korean War, the larger focus of the trip was aimed at spiritual fitness.
“Spirituality is more than sitting in church, spirituality is having something to call your own that’s from inside,” said Sutherland. “When you find something inside that will drive you, and take you through difficult times. That’s spiritual resilience, having a source outside yourself you can call to.”