Korean War veterans from Upson County were honored with their fellow Korean War veterans from Lamar and other surrounding counties on May 31 when The Rotary Club of Barnesville presented a special “Barnesville Remembers” tribute to them at the Lamar County Fine Arts Center.
Approximately 50 Korean War veterans were present and were seated in special sections apart from the audience. Bagpiper Leon Ross and the Georgia National Guard Honor Guard presented the colors to start the ceremony, followed by John Cox of Thomaston singing “God Bless America.” Following the Pledge of Allegiance and an invocation, there were welcoming remarks by Barnesville Mayor Peter Banks, Lamar County Commissioner Charles Glass, and State Representative Johnnie Caldwell, Jr. of Thomaston. Caldwell stated his personal knowledge of the sacrifice the veterans made, with his father serving in World War II, himself serving during the Vietnam War, and his son currently serving in the Navy.
“I know of the sacrifice of you men and women who served in uniform. And I certainly know as a father, of the sacrifice of families when their loved ones are in harm’s way,” Caldwell said. “I salute each of you for your service to your country, and also I salute your family members for the sacrifices that you give when your family member is away in some foreign nation, as well as those who serve here at home.”
Vietnam veteran Tommy Clack told the audience that Americans need to hold these types of ceremonies on a regular basis to remind themselves that freedom is not free.
“From the first shots fired heard around the world on April 19, 1775, when the smoke cleared and the first six Americans lay dead, to the gulf wars, roughly three million Americans have laid down their lives to ensure that you and I can have this assembly and that freedom of speech and everything that we take for granted on an ongoing basis. But I share with you today, as we honor these Korean War veterans, to reflect upon one unbelievable statistic: The Korean War lasted roughly three years; the Vietnam War lasted 11. In three years of fighting in Korea, they had as many killed in action as did the Vietnam War in 11 years. That shows you the intensity of what these men and women went through during that timeframe, and we’re blessed that they stood the ground, many of them gave their last measure, and they came home as victors,” Clack said. “For all you Korean War veterans who are here today, we thank you for your service and sacrifice. We trust you understand that America really does believe in you as America really does believe in all of our veterans.
Guest speaker for the event was Sonny Park. A Korean who, as a child, watching his parents being killed by the North Koreans during the war, Park arrived penniless in the United States in 1974, but has since become a successful businessman. Park is CEO of General Building Maintenance, Global Sun Investments and founder of One Georgia Bank. He is a USO Patriot Award recipient and one of Most Influential Atlantans (JAMES Magazine and Atlanta Business Chronicle) in 2005, 06, 07 and 08. USO. Park, along with General Ray Davis, was instrumental in constructing the National Korean War Memorial in Washington, DC.
Park thanked the Korean War veterans for their sacrifices on behalf of himself and his homeland.
“ These Korean War veterans, in 1950 through 1953, they came to a country they had never known, and they kept fighting. Some of them made the supreme sacrifice and never returned home alive,” Park said. “Those comrades of these Korean War veterans are my heroes and the heroes of 15 million South Koreans and I salute you for your sacrifices for my freedom and my life.”
Each Korean War veteran was presented with a commemorative lapel pin designed for this event. Other highlights of the day included an extensive photo gallery and display of military vehicles, along with the landing of a vintage military helicopter. Plus, Garden Patch Restaurant offered a free lunch to all veterans following the ceremony.
Larry Stanford may be reached at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @LarryStanford7.