Tallahassee Pays Tribute to Korean War Veterans
By Janelle Floyd
Operation Thank You invited the community to celebrate Armed Forces Day and honor more than 1,700 Korean War veterans who call Leon County home. The fourth annual event was hosted, for the first time, at the Korean War Memorial in Cascades Park. More than 400 people came to celebrate, including veterans, family and guests.
Operation Thank You changes the military conflict honored every year but the focus always stays on those who sacrificed the most.
This year marks the 65th anniversary of the year the United States entered the Korean War. During the war, also known as the “Forgotten War,” more than 1.7 million Americans served and, of those, 34,000 lost their lives, 104,000 were wounded and 7,800 are listed as missing.
The event incorporated a performance of the National Anthem sung by the Lawton Chiles High School Choir and various speakers including keynote speaker Major John L. Haynes, Mac Kemp, Leon County EMS and Deputy Chief of Operations, and Leon County commissioner Mary Ann Lindley.
“In Leon County government, we take great pride in serving and remembering with Operation Thank You,” Lindley said. “We honor the costs Americans have paid to protect our freedom. …We have not forgotten.”
Kemp also thanked veterans and shared some exciting news for those in attendance.
“Freedom is not free. When we go to the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., that phrase is prominently displayed. … It is not just a catchphrase, it is a fact,” Kemp said. “Before you leave today, be sure to thank a veteran for the freedom we have to even do what we are doing today.”
Kemp continued, “Honor Flight [veteran organization] has one single mission and that is to fly our veterans to Washington D.C., to see the memorials that were built for them, for free. We will be doing another flight coming up and we would love to get a whole bunch of veterans on the next flight.”
Korean War veteran, Oscar Williams, loved what Honor Flight was doing for veterans. Williams served three years during the Korean War and was appreciative of the annual Operation Thank You annual event.
“Being a part of what happened, I think this event is great,” Williams said. “And even though it happened a long time ago, it’s nice to be remembered. Long overdue.”
Williams was one of more than 295,000 Floridians who served in the Korean War.
Haynes, the keynote speaker, offered his thanks to the veterans in attendance.
“It is the veteran and not the preacher who lives to protect your freedom of religion,” Haynes said. “It is the veteran and not the reporter who has protected your freedom of the press. It is the veteran and not the poet who has protected your freedom of speech.
“It is the veteran who salutes our flag, the nation’s flag.”
The ceremony concluded with all the veterans in attendance posing in front of the Korean War Memorial. Veterans and guests were also treated to pancakes served by Leon County Commissioners.
To find out more about Operation Thank You and Honor Flight, visit LeonCountyFl.gov.