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.
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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.’”