Monday, July 8, 2024

Korean War reminds us freedom must be defended

Sam Casali (left), a 95-year-old Marine Corps veteran who worked with aviation ordinance in Korea in 1952, shakes hands with Consul Taesu Yeo (right) after being presented with the Korean Ambassador for Peace medal at the American Legion's George W. Benjamin Post 791 in Northbrook. Vice Consul Jongyun Ra (center) also attended Tuesday's event. 

     American Legion George W. Benjamin Post 791, a small storefront on Shermer Road in Northbrook, was packed with vets on Tuesday. Brianna Owen, 18, read her essay that won a $1,500 scholarship toward tuition next fall at Ithaca College, where she will play volleyball as an outside hitter.
     "This planet that we are on together is a beautiful one," she began. "We are all very lucky to be on it. However, this planet is also dangerous ..."
     After she finished, the assembled said the Pledge of Allegiance. Thomas Mahoney, post chaplain, led the opening prayer.
     "Please uncover," Mahoney said. He thanked God, "source of all our freedom," then added: "We humbly request a special blessing on those individuals in this room tonight who in serving both God and country preserved our freedom and the freedom of the people of the Republic of Korea."
     The Republic of Korea — what we think of as "South Korea," when we think of it at all — doesn't get name checked much in prayers at American Legion halls. But there were three guests from the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Chicago: Consul Taesu Yeo, resplendent in his police uniform, Vice Consul Jongyun Ra and cultural coordinator Eojin Shin.
     They brought along two Ambassador for Peace medals, given to service members who fought in the Korean War. The medals were presented to Salvatore Casali, 95, an Evanston resident, and, posthumously, to the family of Mario Faldani.
     "We honor the courage, sacrifice and selflessness of those who answered the call of duty and served," vice consul Ra said. "We remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, laying down their lives during the Korean War. On behalf of the Korean people, I extend my deepest gratitude. Your service and sacrifice have secured the blessings of liberty for generations to come."
     That last line summarized the reason I was there. While I am not a regular attendee of honorary ceremonies, South Korea is a lesson worth reminding Americans of, as we struggle to shore up freedom around the world, in general, and support Ukraine as it fends off Russia, in particular.

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  1. Young men drafted into this war were brow-beat by fathers who refrained they had done their duty in World War 2. It was now their time.

    Most military experts say there are eight times the living casualties for this war for every uniformed causality brought back in a casket.

  2. My parents were friends with an older couple when I was a kid. My folks were in their early thirties, so Florence and her husband were at least in their mid-forties by the time I started school. They sometimes baby-sat for me and my kid sister.

    Florence was the one who made me dislike hot dogs, as I mentioned in yesterday's EGD. They had a daughter and a son, who were already young adults. Barry was drafted when I was a little boy. It was the early Fifties...and the Korean War was at its height.

    Barry came home from Korea with what we now call PTSD. He was never the same. After his tour, he deserted from an Army base in the States. He was tracked down and sent to a Federal prison. After he was released, he had many difficulties, and eventually committed suicide.

    When I was in my teens, Barry's folks lived across the street from my high school. I used to see them occasionally. After my own parents moved to Florida in the 70s, I would drive my mother over to their place whenever she returned to Chicago, so she could visit with them.

    By then, a couple of decades had passed since Florence had lost her son to the after-effects of Korea, but she was not the same woman she was when I was a child. It's commonly said that you never really get over the loss of a kid, and I saw it first-hand. She lived to the age of 102.

    1. About the time Sam Casali was serving in the Korean War, I was a 10-year-old then interested in novels about wars and American exploits in Europe and Asia. They seemed to depict a right of passage for an American youth. I remember a feeling of loss: wars were ending and that without a war to prove my mettle, I would not be able to become a man.


    2. A sad story, Grizz. My dad served in Korea but seemed relatively okay.

      Good column, Mr. S.

    3. No more wars. Right. You were too young for Korea and too old for Vietnam. My brother-in-law was about 13 then, and he also lucked out. He went in before Vietnam. They made him an Army cook, at Fort Knox, KY.

    4. Not quite, Grizz. I did get my war, but it wasn't much of a rite of passage for me, nor especially dangerous, although I received (and didn't refuse) combat pay, while believing to a certain extent that I was on the wrong side in the conflict.


  3. The average American's illiteracy in most things puts a pit in my stomach.

    Selfish. Nasty. Petty. Lonely. Fragile.

    Do for others. Do for the future. Be a true American. Be for tomorrow, not today.

    1. Very few Americans have any desire to do any of those things. Most do for themselves, and themselves alone. They do for the now, not for the future, as they see no payback in doing for the future. It's all about payback...and in, what's in it for ME, Mister...and right NOW?

      Nobody cares about tomorrow, only about immediate gratification. NOW TODAY. Hence the selfish and the nasty and the petty. The loneliness and the fragility are just two of the many negative byproducts of this American mindset. It's not going to change for the better, either.

    2. sad but true, anon at 9:28

  4. One of the great myths is that the US soldiers who died in the Korean War died for our freedom. Just as with the Vietnam War, US involvement in Korea was justified by the domino theory although that term wasn’t coined until 1954.

  5. WW ll brought the defeat of the Nazis and fascists. The communists still presented a threat our leaders were unable to devise a successful strategy to defeat. Costing many thousands of American lives and millions of Vietnamese.

    Standing up to the communists seemed noble at the time. A Vietnamese friend who came as a boat person thought it misguided to withdrawal. Hates the communists

  6. From Vox In the early 1950s, during the Korean War, the US dropped more bombs on North Korea than it had dropped in the entire Pacific theater during World War II. This carpet bombing, which included 32,000 tons of napalm, often deliberately targeted civilian as well as military targets, devastating the country far beyond what was necessary to fight the war. Whole cities were destroyed, with many thousands of innocent civilians killed and many more left homeless and hungry.
    For Americans, the journalist Blaine Harden has written, this bombing was "perhaps the most forgotten part of a forgotten war," even though it was almost certainly "a major war crime." Yet it shows that North Korea's hatred of America "is not all manufactured," he wrote. "It is rooted in a fact-based narrative, one that North Korea obsessively remembers and the United States blithely forgets."
    American bombing, to be clear, did not transform North Korea from a nice country into a bad one; the seeds of the country's generations-long fascist rule had already taken root by the early 1950s, and indeed it is worth remembering that the North had launched the war in the first place. But that bombing did end up abetting, however unintentionally, the Kim family project of creating a paranoid, volatile, and oppressive bunker state.
    Read this as well


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