Korean War veterans

Richland County hails those who fought in ‘forgotten’ war

jwilkinson@thestate.comNovember 13, 2013 

  • Medal of Honor recipients honored by S.C. DMV

    The South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles dedicated two buildings Wednesday to Medal of Honor recipients who lived in the state, and will announce more dedications in the future.

    The agency’s headquarters building in Blythewood was named for Col. Charles P. Murray Jr. Murray received the nation’s highest award for valor in combat in France during World War II.

    The Wilmington, N.C., native lived in Columbia until his death in 2011.

    Also, the agency dedicated the Winnsboro field office to Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. 1st Class Webster Anderson. Anderson, a Winnsboro native, received the award for actions in the Vietnam War.

    “It’s an honor for us dedicate our facilities to these heroes who served our country with courage and distinction,” said agency executive director Kevin Shwedo, a retired Army colonel and former chief of staff at Fort Jackson. “They remain role models for all of us and we owe them this honor.”

    The next ceremony will be held Nov. 19, dedicating the Columbia field office at 228 O’Neil Ct. to Master Sgt. John F. Baker Jr. Baker lived in Northeast Richland and received the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War.

    Also on Nov. 19, the agency will dedicate the Orangeburg office to Seaman Robert Blake, an African-American native of Santee who received the award during the Civil War.

From January to November 1952, Roosevelt Robinson Sr. was a rifleman in the famed 2nd Infantry Division, fighting in the Korean War.

After the war, Robinson returned to rural Hopkins, worked as a plumber and raised seven children, two dozen grandchildren and two dozen great-grandchildren – with little recognition of his service to his country for the past 60 years.

However, 18 of those children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were on hand Wednesday when Robinson, 80, walked down the center aisle of The Township Auditorium, with applause ringing out, to receive a medal from the U.S. Department of Defense for his service in the “forgotten war” and the thanks of Richland County officials.

“This should have been done a long time ago,” said Robinson, with a wide grin as he posed for pictures with his large brood.

Robinson was one of 46 Korean War veterans from Richland County to be honored on Wednesday to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of that war, which was fought from 1950 to 1953.

Korea is known as the “forgotten war” because it ended in a stalemate that still exists today, and because interest by the public in the conflict is often overshadowed by World War II. It officially wasn’t even called a war, but rather a United Nations “police action.” The 2nd Infantry Division still guards South Korea from their northern brethren along the 38th Parallel where the conflict ground to a halt.

However, with Korean War veterans now in their 80s, more events are being held to honor their service and sacrifices.

The Richland vets heard speakers – including James Brown, director of the Richland County Veterans Affairs office; Col. Mark Beiger, commander of the 171st Infantry brigade at Fort Jackson and a student of the war; and InSook Lee, a native of Korea who survived the war – thank them for their service and assure them that they weren’t forgotten.

“It’s your time,” Brown said. “The veterans of World War II were the greatest generation and you were the forgotten war. But you are forgotten no longer. You are part of this community.”

Lee told the story of being a 12-year-old girl in Seoul, Korea, when the north invaded. As she and her family fled south, her aunt was killed when they were strafed by a North Korean fighter jet. Lee and her sister both were wounded, with Lee being hit twice in the chest and once in the thigh by shrapnel.

“So I guess I am a veteran, too,” she said.

State Rep. Joe Neal, D-Richland, said that the repulse of the North Korean invasion had world-wide implications.

South Korea “is now one of the strongest economic powers on the planet and one of our country’s greatest friends and allies,” he said. “Many of you made sacrifices (to ensure that country’s survival) and it is my honor to stand here and say ‘thank you.’”

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