By Margaret Downing


On July 16, Deputy Council General Jae-woong Lee addressed approximately 45 Korean War veteran and their spouses at the Korean War Veterans Association Annual State Reunion held this year at the Holiday Inn and Hoffman House in Rockford.

Deputy Council Lee had this to say in speaking to attendees:

“First of all I would like to convey my congratulations to the Korean War Veterans Association of Illinois for its dedication and hard work on today’s memorial ceremony. Also, my special thanks go to Robert Fitts, Commander of the Illinois KWVA – and all the veterans and families for being with us here today. Please send my regards to other veterans who can’t be here today due to health issues.

“When the war broke in 1950, the United States sent 1.8 million troops to Korea to defend freedom and democracy. Most soldiers might not have previously heard the name of the country of Korea, much less its location.

“Still, they were brave and defiant and fought fiercely with Korean soldiers. Their value is still resonating among Koreans who remember them. They also showed deep kindness and friendship to ordinary Korean civilians.

“Many soldiers perished and more than 100,000 were injured or missing in action. On behalf of the Korean government and all Korean people, I pay tribute to all Korean War veterans living and to those who perished in saving my country. Without their devotion and sacrifices, South Korea would not exist today – and I would not be here either.

“The small, poor, devastated country they fought for has grown to be one of the most prosperous countries with full-fledged democracy. We even call this ourselves ‘a miracle.’ In the course of our growth, the help and cooperation by the United States was indispensable.

“As a most important ally in Northeast Asia, Korea has consistently strengthened its bilateral relationship with the United States. The values and interests of our two countries are remarkably well aligned.

“The Republic of Korea/American alliance with strong U.S. troops continuously stationed in the South Korean territory has been the firm bedrock for stability and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula, and it will continue to hold our two countries together. Indeed, the alliance has never been better.

“Earlier this year we witnessed North Korea again conducting nuclear testing. In its wake, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2270 containing the most comprehensive and robust sanctions.

“At this juncture, alliance and the combined role of South Korea and the U.S. to permanently change North Korea’s dangerous and provocative behavior is more prominent than ever.

“Now is the time for the international community, along with South Korea and the United States, to fully implement the sanctions so that North Korea will feel pressure and make the right strategic choice. The Korean government is going to spare no efforts in dismantling the North Korean nuclear and missile program, and in bringing back peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula and beyond.

“As we all know, the Korean War is sometimes called the ‘forgotten war.’ But it will never be forgotten by the South Korean people, tens of thousands of veterans, their families and friends. On this occasion to commemorate the Korean Conflict, I once again send my praise and thanks to all of you who have safeguarded our country through the years with an enduring devotion.”

KWVA members and spouses are involved each year in a reunion, held in different cities, such as Springfield, Rock Island, Danville and Rockford. According to KWVA Director and Recruiter Robert “Bob” Fitts of Rock Island, there are currently 10 chapters throughout the state of Illinois and 800-900 members.

The Korean Conflict lasted from June 1950 until July 1953. A total of 33,739 Americans gave their lives in the war and as of a year ago, seven million veterans were still living. Members keep in touch through chapter meetings, reunions and their bi-monthly newsletter, “Graybeards.”


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