43 Korean War veterans honored in Schuylkill
County and state officials honor Korean War veterans at a medal ceremony held in the Schuylkill County Courthouse in Pottsville on Thursday. Forty-three veterans were honored. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Though the Korean War has been designated by some as the forgotten war, 43 Schuylkill County Korean War veterans were shown that the opposite is true.
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey’s office and the Schuylkill Veterans Affairs office recognized the area’s Schuylkill County Korean War veterans during a ceremony at the Schuylkill County Courthouse last week in Pottsville.
The Korean War saw brutal fighting from 1950 through 1953 and technically has not ended, having been halted by an armistice.
Schuylkill County Veterans Affairs Director Brenda L. Zechman said that even though the lens of history may not be accommodating for Korean War veterans, the crowd of nearly 150 people gathered to celebrate those veterans and show the impact they have.
“None of you is forgotten today,” Zechman said. “It is important that we commemorate every veteran who’s served our country. This is such a distinguished honor — to have a thriving South Korean government give thanks to our numerous veterans who helped shape it into the country it is today through their service.”
Bob DeSousa, a representative for Toomey’s office and a retired colonel, emphasized the importance of honoring veterans throughout Pennsylvania.
“When you realize the young veterans here in this group are 82 years old, these are men who fought 60 and 65 years ago … it’s very important that we’ve not forgotten them, and for Sen. Toomey it’s always been key that he not forget any of our veterans,” DeSousa said.
Toomey has awarded 600 of these medals to veterans all across the state.
Each of the veterans was given an Ambassador for Peace medal, which is a token of gratitude given to Korean War veterans from the Korean government.
County Commissioner George Halcovage also said people need to remember why we fought in Korea.
“Veterans and their families are the ones who have provided us with the freedoms that we enjoy today,” he said. “There’s nothing more special than a person who leaves their family and friends in order to protect us.”
During the ceremony, Halcovage read the veterans’ names. After that, the honoree or a family member came forward to receive a medal from DeSousa and Toomey aide Marta Gabriel.
Halcovage, Commissioner Gary J. Hess and state Rep. Mike Tobash, R-125, congratulated each recipient as they were awarded the medals.
With 43 honored at the ceremony, Zechman said this is only the first step in honoring Korean War veterans and hopes to have more come forward to receive medals.
“The medal has been available for several years, but when the South Koreans did it, places like Schuylkill County didn’t know about it. And we only had a few weeks to plan this ceremony. We hope to continue to honor Korean War veterans through other ways in the future,” Zechman said.
One of these ways is at a ribbon cutting at the newly designated Veterans Clinic in Pottsville, which is to be held on April 27.
At the event Korean War veterans and all other servicemen and women can register with the Office of Veterans Affairs from noon to 2 p.m. before the ribbon cutting ceremony.
For more information on the event, or to claim a Korean Ambassador for Peace medal, call the Schuylkill County office of veteran affairs at 570-628-1400.