Salute to troops: ‘Police action’ in Korea was war

Posted: November 12, 2013

The Winchester Star

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2123 Honor Guard member Ed Ellis plays taps Monday morning during a Veterans Day memorial service held at Shenandoah Memorial Park off Front Royal Pike (U.S. 522). (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)
Korean War Air Force veteran Lewis Ebert speaks Monday morning at the Veterans Day service held at Omps Funeral Home South Chapel in Shenandoah Memorial Park. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)
Members of the Shenandoah Valley Chapter of Korean War Veterans of America Narce Caliva (from left), Bill Scott and Lewis Ewing present Winchester Mayor Elizabeth Minor with a medal Monday morning for her help in having the Korean War Memorial built in Jim Barnett Park.

WINCHESTER — At the time, Lewis Ebert recollected Monday, it was called a “police action.”

But what he and hundreds of thousands of other Americans did in North Korea from June 25, 1950, to July 27, 1953, was fight a war.

With approximately 34,000 deaths, 7,600 listed as missing in action, 7,200 prisoners of war and more than 300,000 wounded, Ebert said, Korea took its toll on a generation of Americans.

“That’s a lot of casualties,” he said, “American boys and women, in this police action.”

Ebert, who served in the U.S. Air Force, made his remarks during a Veterans Day service at the Omps Funeral Home chapel on Front Royal Pike (U.S. 522). The event honored those who have served and are serving on behalf of all Americans to help keep the nation free.

“The sacrifices you made and your families made is immense,” said Chris Collins, the Red Bud District representative to the Frederick County Board of Supervisors. “You carried the burden and sacrificed for the rest of us to protect our liberty.”

Winchester Mayor Elizabeth Minor said she knew well how military service affects family because many of her loved ones were part of war efforts.

“Saying ‘thank you’ is never enough,” she said, “but I do say ‘thank you’ from the bottom of my heart.”

The service included the playing of an Armed Forces medley for which veterans were encouraged to stand when their service song was played, a rifle volley salute by members of the VFW Post 2123 Honor Guard, and the singing of “God Bless America.”

Ebert, a Winchester native, was the keynote speaker.

He joked about being the organizers’ Plan B speaker (“So if you’ve never seen a Plan B, I’m it”) before turning serious and recounting the events that followed North Korea’s invasion of South Korea, when his furlough was cut short and he began a trek that ended when he was only five miles from the enemy.

“We went to stop the spread of communism,” said Ebert, a founding member of the Shenandoah Valley Chapter 313 Korean War Veterans Association. “I’ve often wondered if we hadn’t gone to war what this world would be like today.”

His role in the war was supply, making sure airplanes had everything needed to carry out their missions.

But Ebert said he also was one of 10 men left at the air base in Taegu, South Korea, when it was evacuated after the Chinese military joined the North Koreans in late 1950 and pushed United Nations forces southward.

The airmen who stayed behind, he said, were told what to do if the air base were overrun: “Fall in with the Army and make our way to Pusan (South Korea).”

While he might not have been on the front lines, Ebert said he witnessed war’s devastation: from death and destruction to “streams of refugees carrying what they could of their belongings” as they fled their homes.

“Most of us who are here today are veterans who have been in war,” he said. “For those of you who have never been in war, I hope you never have to.”

In closing the service, Ebert read an oft-cited, layman’s definition of a veteran: “A veteran is someone who, at one point in his or her life, wrote a blank check made payable to ‘The United States of America,’ for an amount of ‘up to and including my life.’”

To view a recording of the ceremony, visit ompsfuneralhome.com, click on the obituaries link and click on the link to the Veterans Day Service on Nov. 11.

— Contact Vic Bradshaw at vbradshaw@winchesterstar.com