CID267, General Van Fleet, Gainesville, FL, Korean War vets dedicate new memorial (Gainesville Sun)
Photo 1. Eddie Ko, Republic of Korea veteran, bows his head in prayer during the dedication of a new Korean War memorial alongside Archer Road in Gainesville, on Monday.
Photos by Rob C. Witzel/Gainesville Sun
By Giuseppe Sabella, Correspondent, Gainesville Sun, Monday, July 27, 2015 at 7:50 p.m.
During the Korean War, northern soldiers killed Eddie Ko's entire family, along with several friends who died in his arms.
“I was a very young and scared and frightened little boy, but my grief changed to anger,” Ko said. “My anger changed to resolve to fight against them at any cost — even to my death.”
Today, 62 years after the Korean ceasefire, Ko spoke during a ceremony dedicated to Gainesville's new Korean War Veterans' Memorial.
Members of Chapter 267 of the Gen. James A. Van Fleet Korean War Veterans' Association placed the memorial next to an existing flagpole at 2672 Old Archer Road.
Ko saluted a crowd of veterans and their families, and praised them for honoring those who fought for the future prosperity of South Korea.
The polished blue granite monument features the flags of South Korea and the United States crossed over a map.
Further down is a dedication to each branch of the armed forces and text that says: “They went to defend a country they never knew and people they never met. Freedom is not free.” See Photo at the left. Also see Chapter article
Engraved on the opposite side — facing the sidewalk — is the dedication date. It also features a line representing the 38th parallel, which separated North and South Korea before the war.
A jagged top represents the mountainous terrain soldiers fought in, which played a large role in strategic planning, according to the veterans group.
“Today, they look down on this monument from their heavenly domain,” said Ko, now a Tampa resident. “Today, they know we still cherish our freedom and they did not die in vain.”
Ko told the crowd of about 90 people that he relayed information to American forces as a 14-year-old spy, often portraying himself to the enemy as a hungry orphan.
Asking seemingly innocent questions, he gathered information that helped lead to several successful attacks, such as the invasion of Inchon.
Ko said he paid his debt to America after being drafted by the U.S. Army and served at Fort Knox in Kentucky, and then South Korea.
“Three years later I was honorably discharged, and now I'm like every one of you — a very proud American veteran,” Ko said, pointing at the crowd.
Today, when Ko visits South Korea, it's to help recover the remains of soldiers who went missing in action.
U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho and Alachua County Commissioner Lee Pinkoson attended the ceremony and made brief speeches.
Yoho focused on the availability of health care to American veterans, and commended them for their efforts after the war.
“You became teachers, lawyers, merchants and nurses; and you helped make this society better and much improved,” he said.
The ceremony also included a 21-gun salute, the laying of a wreath, and Brittany Roughton's rendition of "God Bless America."
Despite sweltering heat and noisy traffic, the crowd's laughter, tears and applause resounded.
“Bless all the people who made this possible,” the Rev. Min Seok Sohn said in a closing prayer.
Photos Monday, July 27, 2015. By Rob C. Witzel / Gainesville Sun Staff photographer