<CENTER><B>Local soldiers recognized<br> for Korean War service</B></CENTER>
"History has shown that we did some good over there, and it's nice to see they're finally recognizing that," Lowell Binford said. "South Korea is a prosperous country, and North Korea is in terrible shape. We drew that line."
'Forgotten War' medal
In an effort to ensure American soldiers who fought in the "forgotten war" are not themselves forgotten, the U.S. Defense Department is now allowing Korean War veterans to claim service medals originally offered in 1951.
The South Korean government had offered the Republic of Korea War Service Medal to United Nations Forces, but at that time, the U.S. military was prohibited from wearing medals issued by foreign governments.
Congress changed that policy in 1954, but by then, all but a few GIs eligible for the medal had returned home and forgotten about it.
The Korean government has since renewed its offer of the service medal to U.S. veterans of the war, and last year, the Defense Department accepted that offer, saying it can be worn by U.S. military personnel who saw action there.
To be eligible for the combat award, veterans must have been on active duty in territorial Korea between June 25, 1950, when the conflict started, and July 27, 1953, the date the armistice was signed.
Better late than never
Southern Minnesota veterans who applied received their commemorative pins during an Aug. 17 ceremony at the Steele County Fair in Owatonna.
Luverne's Allen Willers attended that presentation. "I was interested to see what it's all about," he said of his trip. "It's not much of a pin, but it's high time for recognition. It's too bad it didn't come 50 years ago."
Those who didn't attend the ceremony received theirs by mail.
Binford's came in the mail with a letter thanking him for his service. "The violence and valor that was shown during this forgotten war led to the deaths of more than 20,000 American servicemen and lifelong injuries to countless others," the letter read.
"I recognize that the courage you displayed during this difficult time has all but been forgotten. However 50 years after the Korean War ended, I ... would like to thank you for your service to our great country."
The letter, dated Aug. 15, was signed by Congressman Gil Gutknecht.
Luverne's Ralph Sunde, along with Binford and Willers, encourages local veterans to also apply for their pins. "There is a pin available to all Korean War veterans," he said. "If you've earned the right to have it, go get it."
Rock County Veteran Services Officer Ron Hansen has application forms available at his office in the Rock County Courthouse. That phone number is 283-5061.
Medals may be applied for at any time in the next three years commemorating the 50th anniversary of the war.
Casualties of war
Binford has done some research on Rock County's contribution to that overseas military conflict.
According to his figures, 170 people from Rock County served in the Korean War, and of those, 150 were involved in actual combat.
Among those was the late Jim Van Hove, Luverne, who received the highest military honor of valor for saving the lives of several comrades when their position was overrun by the enemy.
Among those who lost their lives in the conflict was the late Arthur Moeller, brother of rural Luverne's Elmer Moeller. The Hardwick American Legion Post was named in his honor.
Sunde, who also received his pin in the mail this summer, remembers the horrors of combat fighting, but he said the conflict broke out in a post-WWII era when men didn't question their patriotism.
"We were called to duty, and we answered the call," Sunde said.
Uncommon allies united for common good
Binford agreed. In fact, he served with "Fritz" Mondale, "which goes to show you everybody served," he said. "There were kids from rich families and poor families."
He recalls leaving the United States on a ship with 8,000 servicemen who boarded in tight spaces for the duration of the 13-day trip. "It was no luxury cruise," Binford said.
While overseas, U.S. troops fought with a number of different nationalities, including Australians, French, Filipinos and Ethiopians, all of whom were also fighting communism.
Despite the very brief mention of the Korean "conflict" in history books, Binford and his fellow Korean War veterans feel their military role was significant.
"We saved South Korea from the North Koreans, who were being pushed by the Russians – the communists," Binford said. "I have very positive thoughts about Korea and what we did and how it's going today."