Wolf Pack Airmen take part in Korean Armistice Agreement ceremony
KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Members of the 8th Fighter Wing took part in a Korean Armistice Agreement anniversary ceremony held at the Imsil National Ceremony in Jeonbuk, Korea, July 22.
Having been invited by the Republic of Korea Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs, the 8th FW sent representatives from each of its groups, as well as the wing staff agencies, to make the trip to Imsil. While there, the Wolf Pack Airmen were given the opportunity to actively participate in the ceremony, a gesture symbolic of the armistice and the U.S.-South Korean alliance that has continued 60 plus years after its signing.
Signed July 27, 1953, the Korean War Armistice Agreement brought an end to the three-year conflict. Hostilities were ceased between the north and south, establishing a stalemate until a peaceful settlement could be reached. Today the cease-fire and Demilitarized Zone still remain, serving as a lasting reminder of the war, its aftermath and the lives lost.
"I think we need to make sure we remember the sacrifices the people before us made," said Col. Dennis Curran, 8th Mission Support Group commander. "A lot of the things we have today and the freedom we enjoy today are because of their sacrifices ... It's not just about American freedom, it's about the Koreans as well. It's important to remember what they did and to make sure that we all don't repeat mistakes of the past."
For the Wolf Pack Airmen, that acknowledgement took place in Imsil, roughly two hours south of Kunsan AB.
The ceremony began with the posting of the flags of the U.N. member nations involved in the Korean War, as well as the national anthems of both the Republic of Korea and the United States. After a moment of silence was observed, a wreath laying followed with Curran assisting Cemetery Director In Soo-dong and MPVA Regional Director Jeon Hong-bum to place it.
Members of the MPVA then advanced to the stage to lay white chrysanthemum flowers, symbols of nobility and dignity in Korea, and add incense to be burned in an urn honoring the fallen. Five Airmen representing the four groups and wing staff agencies would follow suit, each placing a flower and adding incense, prior to bowing in unison.
"I felt proud to be able to participate in this ceremony," said Tech. Sgt. Chelsea Hughes, 8th Operations Support Squadron NCO in charge of targets intelligence and flower bearer for the 8th Operations Group. "Not only did many Koreans lose their lives, but many Americans lost their lives, and I felt privileged to be able to honor them with our participation in the ceremony."
Following the display was a poetry reading by middle school students of Gwanju City and live performances by the ROK Army 35th Infantry Division band and university student vocalists from Jeonju. The musical performances marked the end of the occasion.
"I'd like to thank all the individuals who went with me," said Curran. "I was really impressed and proud of their demeanor and the way they carried themselves. I think it was something new for all us and I think they really did the Wolf Pack proud and their country proud."
With the official proceedings done, a drive around the cemetery would preface lunch with all parties who attended. The luncheon provided the service members and Korean hosts an opportunity to mingle over a meal of bullak jeongol, also referred to as beef bulgogi and octopus casserole. The meal was a first for a number of the American visitors and served as another insight to Korean culture.
"I thought the meal was...interesting!" exclaimed Hughes. "I can't say I am a fan of octopus, but I really enjoyed being able to try different authentic Korean foods and it not be the Americanized version we sometimes get."
Following lunch, the Airmens' uniforms were replaced with civilian clothes for a leisurely tour of Jeonju City. Located approximately 25 miles southeast of Kunsan AB, Jeonju served as another immersion for the Airmen into both the culture and history of Korea before and after the war.
"It's a very small, traditional city," said Yeon-han Park, Jeonju City English tour guide. "Peaceful, calm and delicious food; it satisfies those who visit this area. That's why our traditional village was registered as one of the ten most visited attractions in Korea."
Guided by Park, the Jeonju tour included stops at Hanok Village, the Jeondong Catholic Church and Gyeonggijeon, which houses the Royal Portrait Museum. The walking tour provided insight not only into the history of Korea and Jeonju, but how the country has embraced its traditions and culture.
"The Jeonju tour was a lot of fun and I would really like to return to do a little more in-depth exploring of the city," added Hughes.
The visit to Jeonju would conclude with an opportunity for the Airmen to explore the busy streets and shops. With both the official and leisurely portions of their trip finished, the group made their way back to Kunsan AB after a day of representing the Wolf Pack and U.S. Air Force.