Korean War vets of Brookland-Cayce High ‘honored’

jwilkinson@thestate.comApril 27, 2013 

On May 22, about a dozen other Korean War veterans who graduated from Brookland-Cayce High School – some of whom still get together regularly for breakfast - will be on a special Honor Flight. They will join about 80 other Korean War and World War II veterans from around the Midlands who will be flown for free to see their war memorials in Washington D.C.

In 1950, Bobby Price of Cayce was living a dream, playing minor league baseball in North Carolina. A year later, he was living a nightmare.

A sergeant in the U.S. Army’s Seventh Cavalry Regiment — of Custer’s Last Stand fame — Price was leading a platoon of about 40 men up a ridge in Korea that later would be named Bloody Baldy.

The regiment charged up the hill five times over two days before they finally took it. Half of Price’s men were either killed or wounded. He was 23 years old.

A newspaper called the battle “a hand-to-hand grenade charge” and labeled it “Custer’s Revenge.” Few remember it today.

“I was in Korea for a year and 29 days, freezing, crying, praying and scared to death,” said Price, now 85 and living at Lake Murray. “I was just trying to stay alive, and keep my boys alive.”

On May 22, Price will be on a special Honor Flight with about a dozen other Korean War veterans who graduated from Brookland-Cayce High School – some of whom still get together regularly for breakfast. They will join about 80 other Korean War and World War II veterans from around the Midlands who will be flown for free to see their war memorials in Washington D.C.

The flight is courtesy of Lexington Medical Center.

“We are privileged to honor them,” said Barbara Willm, the hospital’s director of community relations.

THE FORGOTTEN WAR

Honor Flight was formed to honor World War II veterans. But with the Greatest Generation fading, Honor Flight of South Carolina is now reaching out to the veterans of the Korean War — men and women of the same generation, now in their 70s and 80s, who sacrificed just as much as their comrades in World War II, but have rarely been thanked for their service.

“We’re not bitter,” said U.S. Navy veteran Eric Fowler of West Columbia, also a Brookland-Cayce High School graduate. “We’re just forgotten. It was an honor for me to serve. I volunteered because I was an American and wanted to serve my country.”

They call Korea “The Forgotten War.” But 1.7 million American’s served in it, and more than 34,000 of them died in it.

Columbia restaurateur Bill Dukes, who formed Honor Flight SC in 2008 and has raised funds for 18 flights, said he was inspired by the Korean War veterans who were placed on a flight earlier this month because not enough World War II vets could be found.

“The Korean guys got nothing when they came back,” he said. “This is really the first time some of them have been thanked for their service, which is really sad. They’ve always just kind of accepted the fact that they were forgotten.”

The Korean War was fought from June 1950 to July of 1953. This year is the 60th anniversary of the cease-fire that didn’t as much end the war as establish a fence between two sworn enemies to try to keep them apart.

Even today, North Korea is seen by those in South Korea, and even many in the United States, as a threat.

“The war didn’t really end,” Price said. “We’re still there.”

‘BEST DAY OF MY LIFE’

On the upcoming Honor Flight, the veterans will fly from Columbia Metropolitan Airport to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, D.C. on a U.S. Airways charter flight.

The Honor Flight is complimentary to veterans and includes meals and snacks throughout the day. Guardians accompany each veteran on the flight; there is a $500 fee per guardian for the honor. Medical personnel are also part of the travel group.

The veterans are treated to a patriotic send-off in Columbia, and receive an equally enthusiastic welcome in Washington.

In the nation’s capital, the veterans will tour the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, Lincoln Memorial and Iwo Jima Memorial. In the afternoon, the veterans will be special guests at Arlington National Cemetery as they observe the Changing of The Guard ceremony at the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier.

Ted Bell of Columbia — the most decorated World War II veteran from The Citadel — had to be convinced to go on a flight two years ago.

“It was one of best days of my life,” he said.

The veterans will return to Columbia after the one-day trip at about 8 p.m., where they will be treated to yet another hero’s welcome. The public is encouraged to welcome the veterans home.

Korean War veteran Robert “Bozy” Caughman, also a Brookland-Cayce High School graduate, said he is looking forward to it.

“I think it will be a highlight our lives,” said the U.S. Navy veteran who now lives in West Columbia. “It’s probably the only recognition we’re going to get.”

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