U.S. veterans return to the land where they saw horror, hope“I felt heartbroken when I saw orphans digging in trash cans to find something to eat. My fellow soldiers and I decided to build a house for the children. We used wood from the boxes that were used to ship bombs and steel beams left over from the jet runway.”
James Lamsey was reminiscing yesterday. Mr. Lamsey, 73, is among 17 American Korean War veterans visiting Korea at the invitation of the Korean Veterans Association.
The veterans did not hide their surprise that Korea, once reduced to ashes, was fully rebuilt and developed. They all said they would like to be reunited with the Koreans with whom they were close during the war.
Mr. Lamsey said he served as a C-27 pilot at the Gunsan Air Base for one year beginning in March 1953. He said he built the orphan shelter with his fellow soldiers, along with some support from the Korean government, during off-duty hours, a task which took two months. Fifty children were housed, Mr. Lamsey remembered.
“I was always pleased at how clean and confident the kids were. They always washed their clothes so thoroughly during such a hard time,” Mr. Lamsey recalled. “Korea has developed to the state it is in today because of such confidence.”
Serverito Di Locco, 73, served in Korea for two years from December 1950. He said the proudest moment of his life was transporting 1,000 orphans from Seoul to Jeju Island when the Chinese military was marching toward Seoul. “U.S. forces were here not only to fight but also to help,” he said.
The American veterans arrived in Korea Monday after nearly half a century away. They will stay until Saturday.
Bruce Meyers, 78, was a marine officer who fought a deadly battle against Chinese armed forces in the winter of 1951. “The place we defended for four months became the truce line,” he said. “I can still remember the faces of all my buddies so vividly.” Mr. Meyer said he was looking for his Korean interpreter who went through the hardship with him. “His name was Ham Yeong-hwan; I really hope to meet him again.”
by Kang Chan-ho
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