Dec. 17 at Hoffman House in Rockford: Scott Lewandowski with Memorial Hall is pictured center, flanked by Korean War veterans Chuck Lindstrom on the right, and John Scott on the left.

It has been 15 years now since I became involved with this Chapter, first coming in contact with the Chapter in the fall of 2007 during planning of the Tri-County Korean War Memorial in the Art Anderson Peace Park in Loves Park.

Actually, a year or so previous, I had done an article on Loves Park businessman Art Anderson and his Army service, including his involvement in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. Art was the one who put me on to the KWVA. He was one great guy and a great American! It was too bad he wasn’t around for the completion of the Memorial but I have no doubt he was there in spirit.

The final location for the Memorial was decided upon at a KWVA Chapter meeting in August of 2007, this information relayed to me by then Chapter President Jack Philbrick.

From that point on I was involved in writing newspaper articles on the project. Additionally, I then had access to local Korean War veterans and over the next few years, some of them shared their war experiences with me for newspaper articles.

Besides Philbrick; Joe Arbisi and buddy, Rich LoPicollo (two members who had initially introduced the concept of raining funds for a Memorial)…Joe Myers, Charlie Gebhardt, Floyd Herbig, Dave Pawlus, George Fredin, Howard Ballard, Bill Doran…to name a few, all were very helpful in providing and sharing information with me over the years.

On Oct. 20, 2007, I attended the groundbreaking for the Memorial site. What a glorious day that was! By 2007, the then 70-plus Chapter members had raised around $150,000 of the $175,000 estimated cost for the Memorial – quite an accomplishment.

The crowd was huge, such a glorious day for the Chapter. I remember early on attending a fundraiser supper fundraising was made fun!

In the end, the Greater Rockford Area Korean War Veterans Association, Chapter 272, successfully raised funds to build the memorial; $169,000 for materials and construction costs, and an additional $15,000 for an endowment fund.

Over the years, I had the honor to meet the South Korean Deputy Counsel and the South Korean Ambassador, along with Vice Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, General James E. Cartwright, a Rockford native, who flew in from Washington, D.C. for dedication of the Memorial on July 27, 2008, another glorious day.

Today, the Memorial site is a beautiful and peaceful place to visit and has a good share of visitors. This Memorial is keeping history alive for future generations.

I was honored, prior to construction of the Memorial and placement of the monument, to write “a short synopsis” of the Korean Conflict/War. I understand that President Obama officially changed the name of it to “War” instead of “Conflict.”

I remember Jack Philbrick talked to me about writing a synopsis for the back of the monument…“Oh say, 500 words!” I thought, “That will be a challenge, the whole war in 500 words but I did it,” and I was honored to do so. It was the very least I could do for what our Korean War vets went through.

I learned about our country’s wars during my school years but hearing the stories from vets brought it more around for me. For example, I had heard of Chosin Reservoir but after talking to Joe Myers and Charlie Gebhardt, I finally understood that disaster, one of the worst in the history of the U.S. Army.

Chapter 272 was retired this month. Chapter artifacts are going to the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in downtown Rockford.

Church volunteers from Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Rockford attended the gathering at Hoffman House to pick up meals that were delivered to KWVA members unable to attend the event.

Reverend Richard Wang, Cherry Valley Methodist minister, gave the invocation at the dinner. Membership in the Chapter has down dwindled to just a handful, hence retirement of the Chapter.

God bless all of our veterans, you truly deserve to be honored.

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