USFK honors fallen soldiers in Yongsan ceremony

SEOUL-- American troops in South Korea on Thursday commemorated the fallen service members of the United States and South Korea in a ceremony held on the occasion of Memorial Day.

"Today, we gathered to pay our respects to the fallen, those humble souls who came before us and died in the service of their nations ... to honor what they gave to us," Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander of the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) said.

"And being mindful of our stewardship of that gift, we must ensure that the price paid was not done so without our recognition of the cost."

He was speaking at the honor guard ceremony held at Knight Field of the Yongsan Garrison in Seoul. It was attended by around 100 USFK solders, their families and representatives from the South Korean Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs.

Memorial Day, an American holiday, is formally observed on the last Monday of May, but the USFK hosted the event in advance.

The U.S. dispatched 1.79 million service members to fend off North Korea's invasion in the 1950-53 Korean War and more than 33,870 of them were killed in action with nearly 8,200 others missing in action, according to official data.

Brooks also recalled the sacrifices of U.S. and South Korean soldiers after the conflict, with the two Koreas technically at war as it ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

He introduced some related stories, including the 1968 capture of the USS Pueblo by the North and the 1976 ax-murder incident at Panmunjom.

The Panmunjom tragedy gave him a rather personal and emotional experience.

As a West Point cadet at that time, Brooks stood on the prayer field to honor Capt. Arthur Bonifas as his body returned home. Bonifas was one of two American soldiers brutally killed by ax-wielding North Korean soldiers in the incident that pushed Korea to the brink of another war. The other is Lt. Mark Barrett.

"It was an earlier reminder for me of the sacrifice and patriots in Korea," Brooks said.

The commander also told the story about six South Korean sailors who lost their lives in the 2002 naval skirmish with the North near Yeonpyeong Island close to the tense western sea border.

His speech was followed by a "21-gun salute" in remembrance of those who perished while serving in the armed forces, with the "Books of Remembrance" displayed on the table through the ceremony.

It lists all Americans who died in action during the Korean War.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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