Korean visitors pay respects at Veterans Park
Veterans Memorial Park, overlooking Badger Lake in John F. Kennedy Memorial Park, was less than a pleasant place to be Thursday morning.
Cold rain fell from a steel gray sky. The wind blew the chill through coats and jackets. Leaves from last fall lay on the ground, wet, mushy, compacted from the winter’s snow.
The only bright colors were the flags blowing in the breeze and several bouquets of flowers.
The flowers were brought by a delegation of CJ CheilJedang executives who came from Seoul, South Korea, to visit the CJ Bio America plant, along with several sites in Fort Dodge and Webster County. A group of local veterans and officials joined them.
Hyun-Jae Shin, the company’s chief executive officer, placed a bouquet, then bowed and observed a minute of silence.
“Not only us,” he said through an interpreter, “but all the Koreans would like to thank you and all the veterans for the sacrifice they made during the war.”
He believes that the future will bring better things.
“A better future lies ahead,” he said. “For the U.S. and its allies. We will try our best to expand in the U.S. and do the best for Fort Dodge and Webster County.”
He is grateful.
“We will never forget your service and sacrifice.”
The service and sacrifice he spoke of occurred during the Korean War, when the United States rushed to the defense of South Korea after it was invaded by North Korea in 1950. The shooting stopped in 1953, but a formal peace treaty was never signed.
Harold Wingerson, of Fort Dodge, served on an aircraft carrier during the Korean War era with his detachment of Marines. He was among the veterans who came to welcome the South Korean delegation.
The war touched him deeply.
His brother in-law, Sam Nelson Jr., didn’t come back.
“He was drafted in 1950 and deployed in May of 1951,” Wingerson said. “The Chinese overran their position. He was captured and taken to North Korea. He died in a prisoner of war camp in October 1951. His remains have never been recovered.”
Cody Peterson, operations supervisor for Webster County Conservation, spoke to the group about the history of Veterans Park.
“In 2007,” he said, “J.J. Bonnell, a local Marine, was killed in Iraq. In 2008, Conservation approved the first phase of the memorial.”
“Over 800 servicemen and women are honored at the memorial,” he said.
Fort Dodge City Councilman Terry Moehnke led the effort to get the park established.
Peterson thanked the delegation for its financial support.
“Thank you,” he said, “for your past donations to the memorial and to help area veterans fly to Washington, D.C., to experience the war memorial. On behalf of those men and women, we thank you.”
Retired U.S. Army Col. Rich Lennon, of Fort Dodge, served for 33 years.
He took a few moments to share his own experiences and to add two simple words: “Thank you.”