[May 26, 2023] In two weeks, I will be at the memorial and military funeral service for a U.S. Army Soldier who died during the Korean War. His remains were recently identified and are now being returned to his home in Mays Landing, NJ, just a short drive from my home. I was asked to say a few words. Here is a draft of what I will say that day. Comments are welcome on how to make it better:
The Korean War is commonly known as the “forgotten war” or the unknown war,” and that is so for some complex and unusual reasons. The war began with the invasion of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) by the Communist forces of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (North Korea) on 25 June 1950, less than five years after WW2 ended and nearly 73 years ago. At the end of major military operations, more than 3 million had died, more than half of them civilians. To this day, the official position of the North Korean communist government is that it was South Korea that started the war. This is, of course, absurd.
The United States was wholly unprepared for war; in equipment, leadership, fighting skills, tactics, and manpower. And the stories from that time tell us of the Herculean efforts to put tanks, bazookas, riflemen, junior leaders, and the morale necessary to ensure our troops could push back the brutish communist hordes. The North Koreans were ready. They had been planning the invasion for many months.
In the small Louisiana town I was raised, I got to know many young men who returned from that war. They were open and brutally honest about their experiences. As a little boy, they frightened me, but they helped make my brother, my friends, and I who we are today. They taught us how to overcome fear. Fear is always present, they would tell us. We had to be brave to be a man. They taught us how to be comrades in arms, the strength of brotherhood, believe in God, and be truthful and honorable. And they showed us how to clean our rifle and stay warm properly. They were good citizens.
Today, Private First Class Harry Hartmann, Jr. will be laid to rest. It is time to bring him home and to be near his family. It is time to bring them all home. There are approximately 7,700 Americans still missing in action, with an estimated 5,300 remains still believed to be in North Korea. They are there awaiting us to find them.
Special thanks to the forensic scientists and the teams of military and civilians from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency who, thru their meticulous works, were able to identify PFC Hartmann. Thanks to the Pennsylvania and New Jersey State Police and local Law Enforcement agencies for safely escorting Hartmann’s remains. And lastly, my sincerest condolences to PFC Hartmann’s family.
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