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Cape veteran’s group receives mask donation from South Korea

By Staff | Jul 9, 2020

A show of gratitude an ocean away to the United States to help combat a global pandemic has stretched all the way to Southwest Florida.

The South Korea Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs shipped 500,000 protective face masks to the United States to American Veterans of the Korean War. 2020 marks the 70th anniversary of the war between North and South Korea. The United States supplied 90 percent of foreign combat forces backing the South opposing a Soviet Union and China led North.

These masks were shipped in May and some have now made their way to the Southwest Florida Korean War Veterans Association Chapter 155. The group received 2,000 masks to be distributed throughout its chapter and to fellow veterans and family of veterans in the community.

“South Korea really appreciated what we did,” said Sonnie Rochelle, board member of the local chapter and Navy Korean War veteran. “It’s a really good quality mask. We’re going to distribute them to our people.”

Since the Korean War, the United States and South Korea have been allies both in the military realm and economically. Throughout the Korean War — that is technically still ongoing despite warfare ending in 1953 — the U.S. supplied South Korea with more than 300,000 troops. More than 36,000 American died, more than 100,000 wounded in action and more than 7,500 were unaccounted for.

‘We greatly appreciate all that South Korea does for us and they appreciate all we did and do for them,” Rochelle said. “They were greatly appreciative of us being over there when we were.”

Rochelle said the average age of those belonging to the Chapter is around 88, putting them in the “at-risk” age range when it comes to COVID-19. He said these masks are a great help for local veterans and their families and that he and his wife never go to the store without one.

“Anybody my age is a fool not to wear a mask,” Rochelle said. “It’s really a life-saving measure to take, really.”

The South Korea Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs, in a press release, said they were supplying the masks “to the aging U.N. veterans of the Korean War to mark the 70th anniversary and to recognize their service and sacrifice.”

Kim Eun-gi, a co-chairman of the committee organizing commemorations for the anniversary, in the release stated, “We would never compare these masks to the noble service and the ultimate sacrifice shown by the U.N. veterans during the war, but we sincerely hope our small gesture would help our veterans in dealing with the coronavirus.

“We will overcome the COVID-19 crisis when we stand side by side together.”

The ministry will also send 500,000 masks to Korean War veterans in 21 other countries.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj