Republic of Korea President pays respects to fallen heroes
By Cpl. R. Drew Hendricks
| | July 05, 2007
The President of the Republic of Korea, Roh Moo-hyun, paid his respects to the U.S. service members who gave their lives in defense of his country 54 years ago during a wreath laying ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) July 5.
President Roh and first lady Kwon Yang-Suk, along with several key members of the Hawaii government and military personnel, including Governor Linda Lingle and Adm. Timothy J. Keating, U.S. Pacific Commander, met at the memorial to participate in the solemn ceremony.
The ceremony included an honors salute by the Marines of 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, a three-volley rifle salute and the wreath presentation by President Roh.
At the end of the ceremony, the President signed the official guest book commemoratng his visit. The first visitor to sign the book was former President George H.W. Bush in 1991. Many other official guests, including former Republic of Korea presidents and high ranking military officials from many different countries, have also come to this place to pay their respects.
Alongside the small gathering of officials, several veterans of the Korean War, including Marine veterans who fought at the Chosin Reservoir, came to pay their respects to their fallen comrades who lay buried here.
Among those veterans was Bob Talmadge, a retired Marine Master Gunnery Sgt. and a past-president of the Chosin Few, Aloha Chapter, who said he was very grateful to the President for taking the time to honor him and his fallen comrades.
“It’s an outstanding contribution on his part,” Talmadge said. “I would like to tell him thank you for honoring us and let him know how important it is for us to see how prosperous South Korea has become.”
According to Talmadge, the strength of the U.S. and the drive and determination of the people of the Republic of Korea during the Korean conflict stemmed the tide of a totalitarian and oppressive regime.
“If you look a picture of Earth at night and you look at South Korea you will see bright shining lights that were not there 50 years ago. That’s a sign of progress and prosperity,” he said. “If you look just above it at North Korea you will see nothing but darkness.”