Korean War vets to ‘revisit’ nation as honored guests
Four Korean War veterans from Cape Coral are returning to South Korea as guests of that country, visiting the nation where they once fought against the forces of communism more than a half century ago.
The South Korean government sponsors and subsidizes these visits through their “revisit program”, which treats foreign veterans of the Korean War like royalty for a few days.
The program, since its inception in 1975, has welcomed more than 26,000 veterans to South Korea
“From the time we step on the plane in Atlanta and off the plane in Incheon (South Korea) they take care of everything,” said Bob Hebner, one of the returning veterans.
Hebner, U.S. Navy, is president of the local chapter of Korean War Veterans Association.
He said South Korea honors veterans of the conflict because their efforts helped to turn South Korea into one of the most prosperous countries in the world.
“American GI’s helped to save their country,” he added.
Three other members of the local chapter are also making the trek to South Korea: Gerald Holmes, USAF; “Mouse” Kloeker and his wife Joanne, Army; And Jerry Montagnino, and his wife Pat, Army.
Known as “The Forgotten War”, the Korean War began in 1950, but was only classified as a “police action”, and not a war, when the conflict began.
Actually, now that north and south Korea are still separated by differing political and social idealologies, the war is still on going. A truce was never called.
Now that these veterans are returning to the Far East, they’re excited to see first hand all the changes to South Korea over the last 60 years.
“We’re going to see something we’ve never seen before,” Jerry Montagnino said. “For us it’s going to be a whole new world,
To get there, they have to literally chase the sun around the world, as a 14-hour flight will take them from Atlanta to South Korea.
Once there, everything will be taken care of, from food to lodging to transportation.
The group, along with veterans of the conflict from other nations, will be awarded the Medal of Freedom by the nation’s president, Lee Myung-bak, during a royal banquet.
Bob Hebner said that a lot of Korean War veterans don’t know about the re-visit program, or that there is a local chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association.
But the local chapter’s membership has grown lately, and Hebner hopes that growth spurt will continue.
“We’re growing by leaps and bounds,” he said.
The group has also been “tutored”, as they called it, by a local Korean florist who is imparting phrases and cultural advice.
None of the four men said they had any apprehension of nervousness thinking about the return, just a sense of anxiousness to get over there and experience the country in a whole new way.
“They have the most beautiful skies you can imagine,” Jerry Montagnino said. “I’m looking forward to seeing them again.
The group plans to share the story of their trip with the Cape Coral Breeze once they return from the far east.
For more information on the local chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association, contact Bob Hebner 573-1983.