BANGOR, Maine — About 150 people assembled at the Maine Korean War Memorial at Mount Hope Cemetery on Tuesday morning to commemorate the anniversary of the armistice that ended three years of fighting and to honor those who served.
For one of those attending it also was the realization of a dream.
Myungji Choi, a South Korean citizen now living in Veazie, was on hand to pay her respects, extend her thanks and show her support to those soldiers — present, far away, living or dead — who made it possible for her to grow up in a democracy.
“I’ve been in America for two years and in Maine for a year and a half, and I didn’t even know this was here when I first came here,” said Choi, a liberal arts student at Eastern Maine Community College and an intern for U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud. “It is honorable for me to come here.
“I have dreamed about this my whole life. My grandparents have told me about the Korean War and how amazing American soldiers are. If not for them, we might not have the freedom we have now, and I wouldn’t be here.”
The armistice ending the fighting between North Korea, which was allied with communist China, and South Korea, which was allied with the United States, was signed 57 years ago Tuesday.
The memorial, built in 1995, honors all Korean War veterans and has the names of 245 Mainers who were killed or missing in action engraved on granite slabs.
Tuesday’s ceremony involved readings by veterans, the playing of the national anthem, and the solemn playing of taps on a trumpet.
“I’m always reminded of the men I served with, and some that I lost,” said Edward Davis, vice president of Burton-Goode-Sargent Chapter No. 1 of the Korean War Veterans Association. “There are less and less of us each year, so it’s important for us to remember them and what they sacrificed. We don’t want people to ever forget the 34,000 of us who died or are missing in action over there.”
Davis retired as commander sergeant major after a 41-year career in the military.
He was one of many veterans proudly wearing their uniforms Tuesday and reflecting on memories and former brothers in arms.
“This is a very big event for us. Many of us sacrificed our lives over there,” said Orland’s Jerry Fisher, a Marine sergeant from 1951 through 1953. “I was wounded twice.”
Fisher vividly recalls fighting in the trenches and watching Chinese soldiers surging toward them like a human tidal wave.
“It was just like a swarm of mosquitoes. I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said. “If it wasn’t for the Air Force, none of us would’ve gotten out of there.”
Davis said his association wants to attract new members in its continuing mission to honor the veterans and maintain ceremonies like Tuesday’s.
Membership is $10 a year or $75 for a life membership. Send checks to Burton-Goode-Sargent Chapter, c/o Fred Hardin, 516 River Road, Orrington 04474.