Subject: Reflections - Make a difference
Date: Fri, 13 Sep 2002 13:39:00 -0400
From: Rick Langdon
To: ALL (of the Korea Service Vet's I've made contact with over the past year)
I trust this note will find you and yours well - at least
as well as our ages and various situations permit. I beg your indulgence
permission to mount what is for me, a very rarely used soapbox. If not, delete is but a short click away. However, I hope that you'll grant me a few minutes of your time and attention.
Forgive me if you receive this message more than one time.
I've addressed this to all of the Korea service vets that I've come in
contact with - both directly, through my Korea Camps Map, Memories & Reflections, or Korea Photo Memories pages, my contacts through Classmates.com with members (over the years) of my Korean service unit and indirectly through "The Cav Group" or the DMZ Vets Group - over the past year. I know some of you are included in more than one "group" in my Korea Vets address book.
7 September 2002 - It's been one year since I started
to put up the section of my web site dealing with memories and reflections
1971/72 tour in Korea. Coincident with this publishing was the September 11, 2001 Attack on America by a terrorist group - supported by rogue nations. These two events, the passing of a year, the years stock market slide and corporate scandals, the contacts from fellow brothers-in-arms, and the commemorative events associated with the "First Anniversary" of this Attack on America - have caused me to reflect a great deal on my time in service to this country, what this country truly means to me, and what difference - if any - that an "old Soldier" might have on current events.
Over this past year I've had the privilege of being touched
by contacts with, and memories shared from many of our fellow brothers
(and families of servicemen) from the U.S., England, and Australia who
served their countries in the South Korean defense effort ... from veterans
who served in South Korea prior to the North Korean invasion in 1950, from
Korean War veterans, and from hundreds of us who have stood the line against
a heavily armed and known to be aggressive North Korea since the "Cease
Fire" agreement was signed on 27 July 1953. This represents but a
very-very small portion of the (my estimate) nearly two and a quarter MILLION
U.S. servicemen who have served a tour of duty in Korea since 1954.
(1954/70 - 16 years @ 65,000 troops, 1971/2001 - 31 years @
40,000 troops). I could not have hoped to be back in touch with a finer group of brothers. I also feel we each have the opportunity to
present a very unique view, and input, to questions faced today - i.e. what it means to make a LONG TERM - military commitment to actions which are not only military but also political, economic, and social by their very nature. I think that we can all look at South Korea now - warts and all - and say that it was an action well worth undertaking ... an action well done, but even now - after 50+ years - still ... unfinished.
In the commemorative screenings of the past few days I've
seen (again) New York Police and Firefighters rushing IN toward known and
unknown danger ... these are our domestic "soldiers", trained and called
on ... in our stead ... to stand face to face with danger. These
are all "soldiers" who have been rightly hailed as "heroes" but who individually
do not seek that label. I think back on my service experience and
the fact - if "the ball went up", we would have been headed NORTH, INTO
dangers known and unknown. I wasn't called on to DO it - but I was
trained and prepared to if called on. Also in the past few days I've
seen accounts of the National Guard F-16 pilots - out on an unarmed training
mission - who were sent to intercept the hijacked inbound flight over Pennsylvania,
headed toward what will always be (and thankfully so) an "unknown" target
in our capitol. If necessary, they were prepared to sacrifice themselves,
their aircraft, and the innocent passengers and crew on that airliner to
prevent it from reaching DC ... and I think back on my Korean service experience
... the mission assigned which would have had us headed NORTH was the demolition
Freedom Bridge, the sacrifice of the Brigade of our troops stationed North of the Imjin, and manning defensive positions - as Infantry -
South of the Freedom Bridgehead - for the protection of the South Korean mainland, the balance of our U.S. and ROK forces and the Korean civilian population. Again, I wasn't called on to DO it - but I was trained for it, the materials were in place, and we were prepared to act - if called on.
Through experiences you've shared, and additional research
I've done over the past year, I've learned a tremendous amount. It's
been a learning experience which has served to only make me prouder for
accepting the challenge and opportunity to serve my country as a
"warrior". Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I'm much more aware now of the circumstance and stakes involved with our service in Korea than I was aware of at the time of my tour.
If I've learned anything over the past year about "our" tours in Korea it's this - that over this long a period of deployment in defense, the variations of the immediate "tactical situation" - the immediate "threat" - varied widely. This variation effected our individual experiences greatly. Some were asked to stand face to face with mortal danger - and answered the call. Some were asked to stand face to face with mortal danger - and paid the ultimate price. Some were asked to be prepared - and answered that call. Whatever, the call to arms included - we were each individually, without seeking to be recognized as "heroes", prepared to meet the challenge - and can be rightly proud of our role in South Koreas success - politically, socially, and economically - and their advance into the community of responsible and successful nations of the world.
This, the continued FREEDOM of the country and people
of South Korea - stands as a shining example, in my opinion, of the best
of what the Unites States of America is all about. Our goal in this
action was the defense of a FREE South Korean state, not a political change
in North Korea or reunification of the Korean Peninsula. Unfortunately
this action did not result in unconditional surrender and a peace treaty
but rather an Armistice Agreement - a "cease fire" pending continued diplomatic
"talks" aimed toward a future peace treaty and, just possibly, a peaceful
reunification of the Korean peninsula and peoples. "Talks" - not fighting
- which, to this day, are ongoing - albeit at an agonizingly slow pace
and of such a disturbing - on again / off again nature. At the same
time, our participation - in a lead role - in the defense of South Korea
against invasion and our continued commitment to the defense of South Korea
also stands as an irrefutable example of what it means to make a LONG TERM
commitment - for FREEDOM. The defense of South Korea's freedom has
cost us 33,000+ killed, 103,000+ wounded, and 7000+ POW/MIA during the
"War" years, and an additional 1200+ killed,
200+ wounded, and 80+ POW/MIA in the "cease fire" years to date - since 1954. It has also "cost" us an unknown, but extraordinary, amount in terms of "dollars" and other resources. During this time it has also "helped" shape the lives, thoughts, and memories of millions of our brother Korea service veterans. Has it been worth it? I think so.
What the aggressive policies of the North Korea leadership have cost the North Korean people through their autocratic leadership and command economy is evident in the starvation of untold tens, hundreds, or even thousands of thousands of it's people. It is also VERY clearly evident in our NASA's view of the world at night (which heads my Korea Camps/Map page).
Contrast our Korean defense experience and commitment with our nations Vietnam defense experience. Both nations were divided into, and developed under separate Eastern/Communist or Western/Democratic influence following the end of WW II. Our involvement in defense of South Vietnam, in my opinion, came about in much the same fashion as our involvement in the defense of South Korea - through a commitment to to the ideals of FREEDOM. However, in the case of Vietnam, this recognition of a responsibility to rise to their defense was a more unilateral than multilateral (UN supported) decision.
As a "Vietnam era" veteran (without Vietnam theater service) I also freely admit that I NEVER want the U.S. to go down that road again. The cause was just - but the political and national commitment to the battle for the cause proved to be lacking. Yet this "war" cost us 58,000+ killed, 304,000+ wounded, and again an unknown but tremendous toll in the form of dollars and other resources. Was the battle justified - yes, I think so. Was the outcome acceptable? ABSOLUTELY NOT! In my opinion, what this involvement cost us, above and beyond the tremendous cost in lives, limbs, and dollars, was our reputation as a nation - committed to the ideals of FREEDOM. The lack of support and appreciation for the service directed toward the post Korean "war" (and particularly the Vietnam era) veteran, in my opinion, mainly reflects a national sense of SHAME at our nations lack of commitment to the goal. If you say "NEVER AGAIN" - say a loud and clear "NEVER AGAIN" to a repeat demonstration of such a national lack of commitment.
If the call is made for military action, the cause just - and within the boundaries of this nations founding principles and documents - we MUST demand of our nationally elected leadership, a defining of the the goals of the action and their acceptance of their elected responsibility for providing for the national defense and a DECLARATION OF WAR. Commit the resources of the nation (and solicit the cooperation and commitment the nations of the free world, if possible) to the battle and turn the execution of the battle over to the military. NEVER AGAIN allow the direction, on the field of battle, to be "assumed" directly by politicians. If we're justified in unleashing the dogs of war - turn the "dogs" loose - to hunt down the enemy wherever they may hide and deny them the resources, will, and opportunity to continue their assault on our, and the free worlds, peace, tranquility, prosperity, and freedom.
Now - finally (and if you've reached this far, I thank you for your indulgence and attention) I ask a question, offer my opinion, and direct a challenge to all of my brothers-in-arms ... most particularly to my fellow Korea service brothers ... to rise to the challenge and accept what we, particularly, should recognize as a responsibility and duty ...
LET OUR VOICES BE HEARD !!
What can we do - what should we do - in the face of the
current threats to our freedom and our national security? As an "old
soldier", I would again answer the call - if called. This is most
unlikely and unrealistic. However, I feel it is our responsibility
and duty to give
voice to our experience and express our feelings and thoughts on the national call to arms ... and the associated need for a true, long term, and unwavering national commitment ... to our nationally elected leadership. Make your thoughts known - to whatever degree of
hawkishness or caution you feel comfortable in expressing ... but make your feelings known. Again, as a Korea service vet, I feel we are collectively and uniquely in a position to have our say heard on what, without a doubt, MUST BE a LONG TERM COMMITMENT to the defeat of a very elusive and ill defined enemy group ...or groups of groups ... and their more readily identifiable supporting nations... these enemies of freedom who have so boldly and at such a great cost in lives lost, families devastated, and property destroyed ... attacked our nation.
I've expressed some of my thoughts here - and pledge they will also be conveyed to my state's senators, representatives, and our president. I urge you brothers ... pledge to yourself that you will also be heard.
Short of this, last Tuesday I did - and pledge to continue to exercise our one greatest right, responsibility, and duty.
I VOTED !!
Did your neighbors?
Regrettably, I'm sorry to say - nearly 73% of my "neighbors"
This too is a national shame.
Thank you for your time and attention. Your brother,
- PROUD TO HAVE SERVED -
KOREA MAP - with USFK CAMPS (& other USFK properties)
"The Munsan Corridor" aka "The Kae Seong Corridor")
The Western portion of the 2nd Inf Div area ~ 20 Km Northwest of Seoul to the DMZ.
P.S. I recently received a note from one of our brothers along with the text of a posting to the "ALT.MILITARY" news group. The jist of this message was "Service Veterans - Wear your colors".
This vet, one of our Vietnam service brothers, has elected to wear - on proud display - his awarded Vietnam service ribbon in his now civilian life. I think this proud display of our service recognition is an excellent idea. I would however, make one modifying suggestion. While the display of our "highest" / most prestigious award or campaign ribbon award is great idea, I would suggest that the wearing of the National Defense Service Ribbon - which we've ALL been awarded - just might be the "highest", most appropriate, and universally accepted recognition devise.
From feed back following the sending of this message, I've learned that I was wrong in "assuming" that the NDSM is a universally issued / 1st decoration issued upon completion of basic training. After looking up the criteria for issue along with the periods authorized for the issue of the NDSM I found the information below - perhaps there is no "universal recognition" / service award. This however, in no way diminishes the original sentiment, that it's appropriate for veterans to be proud of their service experience - and wear their colors.
THE FOLLOWING ARE PERIODS IN WHICH THE NDSM HAS BEEN AUTHORIZED:
27 JUNE 1950 - 27 JULY 1954
01 JANUARY 1961 - 14 AUGUST 1974
02 AUGUST 1990 - 30 NOVEMBER 1995
11 SEPTEMBER 2001 - DTBD
Another brother advises - "It's possible to buy small
lapel pins with the color and design of every decoration and service medal
the military awards, and that looks fine on a jacket or coat."
To my Korea Camps Map Page