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  Dedication Completion of KWCM Photo Exhibit GI's and the Kids Mike Strang's Recognition  

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Dr. Buzz Aldrin’s Address at the MGM Grand
30 May 2005

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

I am proud to have this opportunity to participate in this event here this evening. This photographic exhibit is an emotionally moving portrayal of the values our servicemen and women take with them when they serve overseas in the defense of our nation.

Here in 35 panels of photographs, newspaper clippings and comments we have a statement of the compassion of our young men and women as they faced the horrors of war and saw the suffering of the most innocent victims of any war, the children. I am deeply moved by these images for I too served in the Korean War. I was witness to the horror and destruction wrought on that small nation. I was serving in the US Air Force while in Korea. Let me quote from a report on some of the ways the US Air Force in 1953 helped the children of Korea.

“Total voluntary contributions by officers and airmen to Korean orphanages and schools reached $206,759.86 by the end of 1953.

“In addition to the money, Fifth Air Force personnel also provided the orphans with 210,000 pounds of used clothing, much of it coming from their relatives and friends in the United States.
“The Fifth's units supported 86 orphanages and approximately 8,500 youngsters during the past year.
“More important contributions, however, were the construction and rehabilitation of schools and orphanages. The 3rd Bombardment Wing, for example, found 80 children living in a cave on a Korean hillside last spring and promptly raised enough money to build a six-unit orphanage for the youngsters. The children moved into the new buildings by the end of the year. The men also raised $10,000 to build a new home for the children of St. Margaret's Orphanage.

“The officers and men of the 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, just one unit of the 5th Air Force, noted ‘The problem looks pretty hopeless when you think of the thousands of these homeless orphans in Korea today, but we're doing what we can here at the 67th. Not just at Christmas time...it's a year round thing with us. The Bupyong Orphanage at Ascom City, Oryu at Oryudong, New Hope at Yong Dong Po, Colombia in Seoul, the Christian Mission Orphanage also in Seoul, the school and church at Soss, the Kwahairi Church near Kimpo, all are supported wholly or in part, by the men of our wing.
‘Strange names most of them, not at all like Detroit, or Dallas, or Des Moines, but these kids aren't any different, really, from those back home...except that they need our help. And we've been giving it for a long time, since we came here.’”

The list goes on and on and these figures are only for the Air Force and only for 1953. There was also the Army, Marine Corps and Navy involvements with the orphans and orphanages. Even the Merchant Marine had their piece of the action. The scale and scope of this humanitarian aid was immense.

Many books and articles have been written on the Korean War but until the Korean War Children’s Memorial Project began there had never been such a comprehensive presentation of the role our armed forces played in providing humanitarian aid to tens of thousands of Korean children.

This photo exhibit should make all Americans proud of their armed forces. Our GIs, all branches of service and both men and women, take with them to war the values they learned at home, in their place of worship, in school and in their community. As Dr. Drake has stated: “Our young men have to be trained to aim a gun at another human and shoot to kill. They do not have to be trained to offer food to a hungry child, take an injured or sick child to the medic, find shelter for a homeless child or offer solace to a crying child. That comes with being American.”

The Korean War is often referred to as the “Forgotten War.” And within that “Forgotten War” there is this element of love and compassion that has never really been studied before. We need to insist that as historians rewrite the story of the Korean War they include this dimension of the war as an essential element in it.

Bill Asbury, retired editor of the Seattle Post Intelligencer, referred to our armed forces in the Korean War as an “Army of Compassion.” I think Dr. Drake has amply documented that aspect of the war for which we all owe him our thanks.

This photo exhibit needs to be shown throughout America so our fellow citizens can feel pride in their armed forces. They need to know that even in the midst of a horrible war the basic values taught at home were there to guide our young men and women.

This photo exhibit also needs to tour Korea. Contemporary Koreans seem to have totally forgotten the love and compassion of our troops in the Korean War who saved the lives of over ten thousand of their children and helped support more than 54,000 in more than 400 orphanages, most of which were built or repaired by our servicemen. We need to remind them of those dark days and what the American forces did to aid their children in their time of dire need.

On behalf of Korean War Veterans I commend Dr. Drake for the production of this photographic exhibit and Mr. Al Zimmerman for his talented presentation of the material in these 35 panels. I wish it large numbers of viewers as it tours the United States of America and, hopefully, Korea.


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