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Dedication of the Korean War Children's Memorial

27 July 2003


On 27 July, 2003 the Korean War Children’s Memorial was dedicated in Big Rock Garden Park in Bellingham, Washington. It was a lovely warm summer day. Special guests enjoyed a lunch in the garden of the Drake residence located next door to the park. Then everyone moved to the park to hear the Sun Hak International Children’s Choir perform under the pavilion structure. The music was wonderful, the speeches short and the program was over by 3:30 P.M.

Banquet Program, Best Western Lakeway Inn
27 July 2003, Bellingham, Washington

Part One – A Historical Perspective

The first speaker of the evening was William F. Asbury.
William F. Asbury went to Korea in 1951 as the first Field Director for Korea for the Christian Children’s Fund of Richmond, Virginia. He was also an accredited war correspondent which gave him access to parts of the country the returning missionaries and aid workers would not have access to. He left in 1953 after helping establish a support program for more than 4,000 orphans in over 100 orphanages

Our next speaker, Link White actually spent time in a North Korean orphanage. He was able to escape and headed south where he joined up with UN forces. He flew in from Virginia to share with us his perception of the American GIs who raised him for five years.

Many, if not most, orphanages were operated by church related organizations. Bob and Norma Kohls ran the Mennonite Vocational School in Taegu back in the mid 50s. The Kohls have come here from San Francisco to be with us tonight. We asked Bob Kohls to tell us about the GIs and the kids as he experienced it when he was in Taegu.

(Grace Rue) I have known our next speaker, Grace Rue, since my days in Korea. We first met in November 1952. At that time she was the Director of the Seoul Sanitarium and Hospital Orphanage. Over the years more than 1,000 children have been influenced by her loving dedication to the children of Korea. Here to add her observations on the relations of the American servicemen and women to the children that were in her care is Grace Rue.

(Molly Holt) Molly went to Korea to help her dad with the Holt adoption program that brought the first of over 100,000 Korean orphans to America. When Molly heard that Grace Rue was going to be here she said she could not miss this opportunity to see Grace again as “she saved the lives of hundreds of our children.” Molly has many stories of the relationship of the GIs to the orphans of Korea and will share some of them with us now.

(Benjamin Kemena, MD) It is interesting to note the relationships here. Dr. Kemena’s mother was, as was Link White, an orphan from North Korea. She was evacuated out of Seoul by Chaplain Blaisdell and spent time in the Orphans Home of Korea on Cheju-do. On contacting TB she was sent to the Seoul Sanitarium and Hospital Orphanage where she trained as a nurse. Coming to America for a nursing degree she met Benjamin’s father, married, stayed and raised a family. Dr. Kemena is a professor of medicine at the University of Colorado in Denver and a physician at a local hospital. Today he met two persons who saved his mothers life on two different occasions in Korea fifty years ago. Tonight he will comment on Korean values as they relate to orphans.

(Dr. Kim Suk San) Dr. Kim Suk San is the President of the Korea Welfare Foundation which is the successor organization to the one that Bill Asbury was the first Field Director for some 50 years earlier. They met for the first time here today. Several times a year Dr. Kim goes into North Korea to assess the needs of orphans and orphanages in that nation. The Korea Welfare Foundation channels millions of dollars of aid to the welfare institutions of North Korea each year. Here to give us a brief look across the DMZ into North Korean orphanages is Dr. Kim Suk San.

Part II – Honoring those who helped the children.

We begin this part of the evening program with a special award. At this time General Charles Baldwin, Deputy Chief of Chaplains, USAF and Chief Master Sergeant Bennett presented to Chaplain (Colonel) Russell L. Blaisdell, USAF Retired, the “Four Chaplain’s Award”. The other person named in that award, S/Sgt. Merle Y. (Mike) Strang, USAF, who served as Blaisdell’s Chaplain’s Assistant during the time of the rescue, died in 1998 without ever haven received any form of recognition for his role in that rescue. This posthumous award tonight changes that. As General Baldwin and Chief Master Sergeant Bennett had to catch a plane they left the banquet and headed for the airport.

We continued this portion of the program with a certificate of appreciation to a person who wasn’t even there. We looked for this individual because his story captures the feelings, the emotions, the commitment of the American serviceman when faced with children at risk. Here is the story of the “Unknown Marine” who rescued a little Korean boy as he was being evacuated from the Chosin Reservoir. The story published in the Pacific stars and Stripes in December, 1950 was read by Henry Cagey, former Chairman of the Lummi Indian Business Council.

Sergeant Carries Baby to Safety

Also at the Chosin Reservoir at that same time was George Cagey serving in the US Marine Corps and a neighbor of ours from the Lummi Indian Reservation. We asked him to receive the certificate on behalf of his unknown comrade and display it with pride. We also called on members of the Lummi Ceremonial Drum Group to come forward with George Cagey to be witness to this act so the memory of it is kept alive in the tribe.

Throughout America there was a tremendous outpouring of support for the American servicemen and women as they tried to help the needy children. There were city-wide campaigns in New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Houston, Syracuse and Utica New York and in many other cities, large and small. Business firms from “ma and pa” businesses to corporations such as John Deere Company conducted campaigns to help the children. But American children also helped, in school classes, in the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and even children in an orphanage in Boston went out to solicit aid for the Korean War orphan. We have invited a representative of these diverse elements of our population to be here tonight to be recognized for their contribution to the well being of the Korean war child and serve as representative of all others who are not here. We will do this by focusing on one small orphanage that I knew intimately during my time in Korea, Manassas Manor Orphanage.

Manassas Manor was the name of the little orphanage of 50 orphans that was created by the men of the 326th Communications Reconnaissance Company in a community between Seoul and the DMZ. The orphanage was named for the city of Manassas, Virginia, home town of the commanding officer of the company when it was created. Citizens of Manassas helped the orphanage from its beginning and when it closed they continued their support for “their” orphans in their new setting, the Seoul Sanitarium and Hospital Orphanage. Here tonight is Colonel Ulysses X. White, US Army, Retired, member of the Manassas City Council, to receive from the orphans of that small orphanage their appreciation for the compassionate aid the citizens of Manassas sent to the soldiers of the 326th CRC for them.

Eddie Cho has asked for the opportunity to make a special presentation. Eddie read this letter and then presented Dr. Drake with a special plaque of appreciation.

Eddie Cho's Letter

Following the presentation of the plaque Robert Rue, another of the former orphans helped by Drake and his comrades in the 326th CRC, gave a clarinet recital of “Danny Boy.”
Christian Children’s Fund

As a professional sociologist I am very much aware that the spontaneous individual responses of our armed forces to alleviate the suffering of the Korean children was not sufficient to support them as they grew older and the troops left. Help had to be institutionalized and structured in a manner that could be sustained over time. Korea was blessed with the presence of a remarkable organization, the Christian Children’s Fund of Richmond, Virginia. The first CCF representative to Korea was Dr. Verent J. Mills whose daughter is here with us tonight. He was followed shortly by the first person to hold the role of Korean Field Director, Bill Asbury. Later, for a short period of time, Bob Kohls served as Interim Director and now, 50 years later what began as the CCF - Korea is called the Korea Welfare Foundation of which Dr. Kim Suk San is the President.

Before we close this evening’s program I would like to ask that my wife, Mary Ann, and my sons Todd and David stand up and be recognized. In many ways they have been impacted by my experiences with the orphaned and homeless children of Korea. They have stood by me as I ventured to undertake this project and I extend to them my deepest love and appreciation for their patience, their understanding and support.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen: This has been an historical event. Never before, in the fifty years since the armistice that ended the Korean War, has there been any formal recognition of the aid that the American Armed Forces rendered the children of Korea. We have now closed that gap and as the history of that ugly war is written and rewritten it will have to include the recognition that even in times of war the American servicemen and women take with them to battle their love of children and do all they can to save the lives of those innocent victims and help them survive.

We end this evening with a prayer for peace so that all children, no matter where they live, can grow up in a loving family and a community that is devoid of prejudice in any form; a community that will help each and every child achieve their human potential.

Photos of the dedication and banquet.


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