CHEONAN CITY, South Korea – More than 300 Korean officials, citizens and U.S. service members gathered on July 8, 2023, in Martin Park, near the site of the Battle of Cheonan to commemorate the loss 109 U.S. Soldiers who died there 73 years ago at the start of the Korean War.
On July 8, 1950, the North Korean People’s Army, armed with tanks and soldiers, killed the 34th Infantry Regiment Commander, U.S. Army Col. Robert R. Martin, along with 108 U.S. Soldiers, who were overwhelmed by the assault.
“We are here to commemorate the noble sacrifice of Col. Martin and 108 young Soldiers who sacrificed their precious lives 73 years ago to protect freedom and peace,” said Vice Minister Shin Beom-chul, Ministry of National Defense, Republic of Korea. “The Republic of Korea has achieved great strides and growth since the Korean War based on the noble sacrifice of veterans. Without such devotion, the Republic of Korea would not be here today.”
During his remarks, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Willard M. Burleson, III, the commanding general, U.S. Eighth Army, reflected on the Republic of Korea and U.S. Alliance.
“Today we honor the sacrifices made by these men through our combined readiness,” said Burleson. “A well-trained military is the greatest deterrent against those who would undermine peace security and prosperity everywhere. Our combined ROK-U.S. forces stand ready together. The alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea has remained steadfast for 70 years. This incredible alliance forged during the Korean War is stronger now than ever before.”
Lee Ji-o, the student president for Cheonan Samgeori Elementary School read a personalized thank you letter, stating that he, like so many young people, remained unaware of the significance of Martin Park.
“I didn’t know the meaning of Martin Park until I learned about the Battle of Cheonan,” said Lee. “Some may say everything is forgotten and disappears with time, but I don’t believe that to be true. Whenever I pass by Martin Park, I will remember and appreciate the sacrifice of U.S. Soldiers.”
Following remarks and solemn songs by the band and choir, guests laid flowers and burned incense at the foot of the Martin Park monument. After the last flower was placed, Republic of Korea soldiers fired a volley followed by a moment of silence in honor of the 109 U.S. Soldiers who perished there 73 years ago.
“I really appreciate the hard work that went into this event,” said Ryan Benech, the great-grandson of Col. Martin, and a distinguished guest, who had been planning to attend the ceremony for several years. “I feel really honored to be able to represent my family who feel a strong connection with the City of Cheonan. It was a great honor to be here to witness this event and connect with all these wonderful people. I love the city, and I look forward to coming back.”