By Master Sgt. Gary L. Qualls, Jr., Eighth Army G-9June 1, 2011
SEOUL - South Koreans and Americans joined together to pay respects to the hidden U.S. heroes in enhanced grave sites at the Seoul Foreigners’ Cemetery in a Memorial Day ceremony at Yanghawgin District here May 27.
Thirty-seven graves belonging to American veterans of World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam serve as the final resting place for the heroes who, until recent years, have been largely forgotten, obscured by tall grass in unkempt grave sites.
One hundred and twenty-six children of veterans are also buried at the cemetery.
The Association of Korea-U.S.A. Friendship Alliance has done much to improve the grave sites in recent years, carrying out the arduous work of repairing the burial mounds, planting and cutting grass, helping reset the tombstones (a project which area Masonic Lodges took on) and providing for the general upkeep of the grave sites.
And 23 personnel from the Eighth Army Judge Advocate General office prepared for the special day by placing flags and flowers and picking up debris on the American grave sites that morning.
On a serene Seoul day, South Korean and American friends, both military and civilian, including Eighth Army Deputy Commanding General Brig. Gen. David J. Conboy, 96-year-old Korean War hero Park Yung-chang, and Chairwoman Hong Seung-ok, chairwoman of the Korea-U.S Friendship Alliance, sang hymns, offered prayers, read scriptures, spoke and otherwise paid homage to the American heroes.
The keynote address at the ceremony was offered by Rev. Park Jin-chul, who delivered a message about finishing well.
Park talked about the importance of examples in his address, noting that many men and women have devoted themselves nobly to the Republic of Korea government and to the United States. He pointed out that the Bible instructs that we should “observe carefully” leaders such as this and “imitate their faith and devotion.”
Finishing well begins with “recognizing what God has done for the U.S. and Korea,” Park said.
Secondly, we need to have complete commitment, he said, pointing that the men and women who died for Korea and America had tremendous dedication and commitment to their country. “They are good examples. We should do our best too.”
Thirdly, Park said we need to love God with all our heart.
“Love motivates us to finish, to keep on, to never quit,” he said, noting we can see good examples in the Bible of people using love to help them overcome victoriously, such as the Israelites’ Red Sea crossing and the Joshua-led victory in the Battle of Jericho. We should use such examples to inspire us to restore world peace, he said. “From now on, we should love our neighboring countries " all nations.”
Park noted the U.S. has demonstrated love toward Korea with their help through the years, without which Korea would not have been able to develop to their top 10 world ranking economically, nor would they have been able to develop so well scientifically, educationally and in all other areas.
“We can see clear evidence of what God has done in Korean history. We should love and obey God and love our neighbors. If we do that, we can finish our lives well and bring them to a successful conclusion,” Park said.
Other voices echoed Park’s emphasis on love during the ceremony.
“These heroes hated war, but they hated tyranny and oppression even more. They loved their lives, but they loved others more,” said Rev. Park Yung-chang.
Conboy also spoke at the ceremony. He told the Koreans in attendance at the ceremony there would be many similar ceremonies in America on Memorial Day weekend to honor and remember their veteran heroes.
Conboy said Friday’s ceremony at the Seoul Foreigners’ Cemetery represented the “continued close friendship of the United States and Korea” and the “blood, sweat and tears” sacrificed by men and women from both countries.
“We need to pay homage and give thanks for our good camaraderie and relationship. God willing this relationship will remain strong forever and overcome any challenges or any threat,” Conboy said.