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Donna Miles - American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 9, 2010 - U.S. Forces Korea is gearing up for a full range of activities to begin this summer commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Korean War, and the strong U.S.-South Korea alliance that continues to maintain stability on the Korean peninsula.
South Korea will take the lead in the anniversary events, to kick off with a ceremony at Seoul's Jamsil Olympic Stadium on June 25, the day North Korean forces invaded at 4 a.m. in 1950.
Other key events will include Sept. 3 ceremonies in Da Bu Dong commemorating the Battle of Pusan Perimeter, in which the 25th Infantry Division's 27th Infantry Regiment fought in August and September 1950. About 100 U.S. Marines, along with their counterparts from South Korea, the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia and Canada, will reenact the Inchon landing Sept. 15.
Ceremonies in Seoul on Sept. 28 will mark the anniversary of the city's liberation in 1950.
Plans also call for a military festival Oct. 1-5 at South Korea's military headquarters near Deajeon; an Air Operations Day observance Oct. 15 and 16 at Kangnung Air Base, home of the South Korean air force's 18th Wing; and Nov. 10 ceremonies at the War Memorial in Seoul commemorating the Northern Campaigns. Additional commemorations are slated in the United States, to be funded by the South Korean government.
"The Republic of Korea government is really working hard to make this a great set of events," Army Gen. Walter "Skip" Sharp, commander of U.S. Force Korea, Combined Forces Korea and United Nations Command, said during an interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service. While highlighting key events of the Korean War, the commemoration will recognize the Korean War veterans who sacrificed to protect South Korea from aggression, Sharp said.
Hundreds of Korean War veterans are expected to return to Korea for the ceremonies, many of them through the South Korean-run and –funded Korea Revisit Program. Sharp noted that for many, the visit will be their first since they left a poor, war-torn country that has developed over the last six decades to become one of the world's most prosperous and technologically advanced nations.
"[This is] the Republic of Korea saying 'Thank you for all that you did 60 years ago in order for our country to get where it is today,'" Sharp said. The returning veterans "will really see that the sacrifices they made were worthwhile, from a personal perspective."
The commemoration activities also will pay tribute to the role the United Nations, particularly the United States, have continued to play in maintaining stability on the Korean peninsula since the armistice agreement was signed July 27, 1953.
"If you look back at all the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who have served during that whole time, ... to begin with the fighting and defeat of North Korea, to the point where they [have maintained] stability and security through many different provocations from North Korea, I think the 60th anniversary is very important," Sharp said.
The commemoration will be personal for Sharp, whose father was fighting in Korea when he was born in Morgantown, W.Va. The senior Sharp was an infantry platoon leader with the 40th Division, and later, part of the regimental operations staff.
When he learned that he had been selected for the top U.S. military post in South Korea, Sharp said he dug through a cedar chest at his mother's house to find old pictures of his father in Korea, and later shared them with his Korean counterparts.
"I am honored to be able to follow in his footsteps, and to be able to continue to see the progress of Korea as we move forward from what it was back then to today, to the future with so many changes going on," he said. Sharp called the 60th anniversary of the war "a great time to visit, and a great time to serve in Korea."