Area Korean War veterans were honored at a Sept. 27 luncheon at The Summit.
Sponsored by the Legacy 4 Korean War Veterans Foundation, the 16th annual luncheon was attended by dozens of people, including 31 Korean War veterans from across the region, said KC Bertling, president of the North Alabama Veterans and Fraternal Organizations Coalition.
Also in attendance were several relatives of departed Korean War veterans, Bertling said, along with Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, Madison Mayor Paul Finley, and many military leaders, industry representatives and members of local veterans organizations.
Gen. Ed Daly, commander of Army Materiel Command, welcomed attendees by video and expressed thanks to the veterans for their service.
“You went, you fought, and you pushed the limits of freedom’s frontiers,” he said.
Brig. Gen. Christine Beeler, commander of the Army Contracting Command, was the keynote speaker, who offered the veterans “my supreme respect and appreciation” and called them “national treasures and standard-bearers.”
As a child, Beeler recalled finding a box of medals and asking her mother if they belonged to her father.
“‘No, those are my father’s ribbons,’” said her mother, speaking of Beeler’s grandfather, Air Force Capt. Bill Russell Jr., who served in the Korean War as an intelligence officer.
In the 1980s, Beeler said her parents took her to Washington, D.C. and the nearby Arlington National Cemetery, where her grandfather, who died in 1961, is buried.
The trip stirred “a lot of pride in me and my family,” Beeler said, and served as a dramatic illustration of “what it means to serve America, to defend the ideals of freedom from oppression.”
Later, as an Army officer, Beeler was stationed in Korea with a corps support group.
“I had an absolutely fabulous time,” she said, noting such activities as mountain climbing, skiing, sightseeing and adventurous eating. “I even tried blowfish.”
While she was stationed in Korea, Beeler said, her mother was selected by the Korean Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs to visit the country, which again brought the family “a sense of awe and pride.” Beeler read aloud the letter that was sent along with the Bronze Star her father earned in Korea for his successful briefing and interrogation processes, and the volunteer combat missions he took.
“I look around this room and can’t imagine that my grandfather did anything different” than the Korean War veterans in the room, she said.
In closing, Beeler asked the veterans to continue telling their stories, especially to young people who may be inspired to join the military.
“We need your help (with recruiting),” she said. “Each and every one of you is an inspiration.”
The Twickenham Jazz Band and dancer Yun Mi Kim provided entertainment at the event, which also including singing of the national anthems of the United States and the Republic of Korea by Young Jung Kim and the 1st Patriot Support Corps.
Korean J.B. Lee, vice president of Hyosung U.S.A. Inc., spoke of the progress that has been made in his native country, which now excels in everything from movie making and pop culture to semiconductor manufacturing.
Morris Ed Harwell of Pulaski, Tennessee, 91, was among the Korean War veterans who attended the luncheon.
He joined the Army as a volunteer at age 20 and served as a guard in Korea. He left after seven years as a “buck” sergeant and returned home to found a retail store called Morris Harwell and Sons, now owned by his son and called The Outlook, on the square in Pulaski.
Being honored “means everything,” he said. “It makes you proud you’re an American, proud that you served.”
Paul Reeves of Athens, 93, joined the Army in 1947 and served as a sergeant major in Korea, and he received a battlefield commission in 1952. He retired after 25 years as a lieutenant colonel in 1972 and worked another 33 years as a bailiff in Limestone County Circuit Court.
This event “means the world to me,” said Reeves, adding that he served as an engineer logistics adviser to Korean forces in during the Vietnam War.
During the July “Honor Flight Trip” from Huntsville to Washington, D.C., for the unveiling of a new Korean War memorial wall, Reese was among the four veterans chosen to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
That trip was organized by an all-volunteer team headed by Bertling and Chris Batte, co-founder of Honoring Veteran Legacies.
Bertling closed out the luncheon by leading the attendees in an acapella version of “America the Beautiful.”