Canby man tours South Korea
Many Americans fought with United Nations forces and the armed forces of South Korea during the Korean War in the early 1950s. Since that war stalled in 1953, it's not actually officially over although the fighting has stopped, many of those who fought in that war came home and weren't themselves.
One of those men was Ken Buckles' father, Gordon Buckles, who committed suicide in his early 50s. His son developed a group called Remembering America's Heroes or RAH, which began 24 years ago at Milwaukie High School's annual Living History Day. The younger Buckles was a teacher and a coach. That event spent 15 years as the biggest and most comprehensive school program honoring United States veterans, noted Buckles.
Since 2001, with Buckles pushing the program onward, RAH has taken the Living History Day concept to 43 Oregon schools. It's also consulted with schools throughout the United States, offering speaker sessions and informing students about the wars in which these veterans have fought.
Salem's Bill Chisholm was in high school when the war broke out. He lied about his age of 16 when he joined the U.S. Army and earned his first Purple Heart that year and a second one a year later. Buckles noted that Chisholm was at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, one of the worst engagements of the war. When Chisholm came home he swore he'd never go back. A single father of three daughters, he tried all kinds of therapy to help, and he would not talk about the war or its after effects.
Buckles had gone on a Revisit South Korean program about six years ago and found that the South Koreans still appreciated the sacrifices of America's soldiers. He found the same sentiment when he returned about six weeks ago.
The Sae Edin Presbyterian Church was founded 30 years ago in a basement. It now has 40,000 members and is housed in a large, modern building. Those members feel totally thankful to the United States and its veterans for their sacrifices during the war and afterwards with U.S. taxpayer funds turning South Korea from a war-torn country into something beautiful and vibran.
"They feel they owe the U.S. for helping refugees escape from the North and helping turn South Korea into a free nation," Buckles said.
This last tour included 60 Americans, three charter buses, three or four Korean adults assigned to work with the Korean students that works with the American tourists.
"Everything we did was first class and five star," Buckles told the Herald.
So Sae Edin Church members tithe themselves to pay for inviting Americans veterans to visit their church and country—including the demilitarized zone—all expenses paid. It's their way to pay a huge debt of gratitude for helping them more than 70 years ago by helping free people and rebuild their country. They fly these people to South Korea, put them up in a five-star hotel, tale them on a cruise on the Han River and feed and house them all the while showing their thanks for keeping their country free.
During the four days there they were taken to a Republic of Korea Marine Corps base as well as a ROK Navy and Special Forces bases. They also got to go to the DMZ as well as the U.S. 8th Army base. Throughout the vets, their spouses and children were honored, thanked and told how grateful these people were for the Americans' help and sacrifices, Buckles said.
"The trip was life changing and loving showing understanding and asking for forgiveness and forwarding their thanks and gratitude for some people whose lives were totally changed by the war," Bill Chisholm told them on the last day, "I don't want to go back home."
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