Korean MemorialKorean War & Korea Defense Service Veterans, Lake Co. (FL), Chapter 169















Today marks the 60th anniversary of the Korean War

by THERESA CAMPBELL, Staff Writer, Daily Commercial, Leesburg Florida, June 25, 2010

LEESBURG -- Jack Reynolds had just turned 19 when he answered President Harry Truman's call for American troops to help South Korea repulse invading North Korean troops. Later generations would dub this conflict "The Forgotten War," but it's hard to forget what those 58,000 U.S. troops accomplished, said local veterans.

The conflict began six decades ago today -- before dawn on June 25, 1950, as North Korean forces launched a surprise attack across the 38th parallel, the division between the two countries.

"It doesn't feel like 60 years," said Reynolds of the years that have passed since his involvement in the Forgotten War. "I was just a young guy."

Too young, perhaps to truly understand why it was important to wage war against the Communist forces in Soviet-occupied North Korea and their Chinese allies. But today Reynolds and others members of the Korean War Veterans of Lake County Chapter 169 beam with pride when they talk about significance of those three years of combat.

"Communism was suppressed," Tom Thiel, president of the local Korean War Veterans chapter, said of America's involvement in the conflict, which ended July 27, 1953, with an armistice agreement.

Thiel was a 21 years old when he went to Korea, serving with the U.S. Army's 24th Infantry Division.

"Their move was to take the south," Thiel said of the North Koreans. "I'm proud of what we have done and what we did there, and I'm proud of South Korea today. South Korea is one of the major economies in the world. People who go there tell me it is amazing."

Reynolds believes South Korea would be a much different place had the U.S. not intervened in the war.

"Had we not went, there would be wagons and oxen as you walk up and down the streets," he said, describing life under Communist rule. "Now it looks like New York City; it's a bustling city with big seaports. None of that would have happened if we had pulled out and given it over to the North Koreans."

Reynolds received two Purple Hearts while serving with the infantry. He cherishes showing his black-and-white pictures and the memorabilia that he brought home after the war. He also treasures the fellowship he has forged with the 54 other veterans in local Korean War Veterans chapter.Jack Reynolds, in front left, shares memorabilia he collected from his time served during the Korean War at a meeting of Lake County's Korean War Veterans chapter 169 on Wednesday, June 23, 2010, at the senior center in Leesburg.

Reynolds received two Purple Hearts while serving with the infantry. He cherishes showing his black-and-white pictures and the memorabilia that he brought home after the war. He also treasures the fellowship he has forged with the 54 other veterans in local Korean War Veterans chapter.

 Jack Reynolds shows Jack Reynolds et alpictures and other memorabilia from his time served during the Korean War at a meeting of Lake County's Korean War Veterans chapter 169 on Wednesday, June 23, 2010, at the senior center in Leesburg.

 

"The people here, you can go and talk to any of them and they know about someplace that you've been," he said.

Every two months, he receives a national Korean War magazine in the mail, which he enjoys reading and looking at pictures of other veterans who also served in Korea.

"There are days when I see people that I know and remember from when I was there," said Reynolds, who went on to serve 32 years with the U.S. Navy after his time in Korea.

Dick PfahlerRichard Pfahler joined the Navy in 1948, right after graduating from Leesburg High School.

 

 

"I was on the USS Saint Paul, a Navy cruiser," he said. "My first landing was in China. We evacuated the Americans when the Communists were taking over China."

Once he returned to the U.S., the Korean War began.

"I was right back over there again," he said. "I did two tours over there. We lost 39 men from our ship that were killed. Some of them were at boot camp with me. I remember the sacrifices that we made, but I think it was the right thing."

Pfahler went on to serve 26 years in the military, retiring as a lieutenant. He is now among a group of local veterans that visit schoolchildren to give them a firsthand account of serving in the military.

He believes its important for fellow Americans not to forget the 25,000 troops that are serving in Korea today.

"The troops are doing a good job," Pfahler said. "I think if they weren't there, we would have more trouble yet. I feel for them; they never know from day to day what is going to happen."

"We're on the verge right now of going back to war again with the North Koreans because he (North Korean leader Kim Jong Il) holds the world hostage by menial threats of the atomic bombs," member Dwight Brown said. "During the tour that I was in, and to this day, there are soldiers dying on the DMZ from the North Koreans over there."

Dwight BrownBrown was a Medivac helicopter pilot serving in Korea after the war, from 1974 to 1977. He met and married his wife of 34 years, Kum Ye Brown, a South Korean. Brown's passion these days is collecting Korean currency, which he plans to pass down to his grandchildren.

"I wanted them to have something of their heritage," he said.

During his military service in Korea, Brown remembers the hostility and "incident after incident" of injured South Koreans after the discovery of North Korean tunnels and their secret plans to invade the South.

"That kind of stuff was going on," Brown said. "They (North Koreans) are ruthless people. I sit back and can understand what these people went through to win that war. I have a lot of respect for them and that's the reason that I joined their organization, so that I can keep their memories going."

Brown is the only member of the post 1950s combat era who belongs to the veterans group. The group meets 2 p.m. on the fourth Wednesday of each month at Leesburg Senior Center, 1211 N. Penn St.

"We need these guys like Dwight to come aboard and keep the memory alive," said Thiel, the chapter president. "We want to get the message to those younger folks to join us. We need them because we're dying off."

Color GuardMembers of the color guard, from left, Bill Simunek, Donald Lynch, Ed Pilarski and Charlie White prepare flags for a presentation of the colors before a meeting of Lake County's Korean War Veterans chapter 169 on Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at the senior center in Leesburg.

 

Ted Jansen and Tom Thiel prayerTreasurer Ted Jansen, left, and president Tom Thiel pause for a moment of silence in memory of their experiences and the friends they lost during the Korean War at a meeting of Lake County's Korean War Veterans chapter 169 on Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at the senior center in Leesburg.