Green River Star -

By Stephanie Thompson
People Editor 

Local veterans receive medals

 

Stephanie Thompson

Richard Shuck is joined by his daughter to receive his Republic of Korea Ambassador for Peace Medal.

In a packed room, Korean War Veterans and their families gathered together to reflect on the war and to receive a peace medal.

According to Doug Uhrig of the Wyoming Veterans Commission, the Korean War, was on of the bloodiest wars, but due to lack of public attention, it's often referred to as "The Forgotten War."

"It was a short, but exceptionally bloody," Uhrig said.

According to http://www.history.com, about 5 million people died in the war and half of those were civilians. Forty thousand American soldiers died in the war and 100,000 were injured.

The Korean War started June 25, 1950, when 75,000 soldiers from the North Korean People's Army poured across the 38th parallel. The United States joined the war a month later. The war ended in July of 1953, but Korea is still divided today.

The United States was the country that provided the most support during the war, representing 88 percent of the support given, something the Republic of Korea hasn't forgotten.

Uhrig said veterans and surviving family members of deceased veterans had to complete a request by August 2016 to receive the Republic of Korea Ambassador for Peace Medal.

During the ceremony, those attending gave a moment of silence to honor those who died in the war. This was especially hard for Rock Springs resident Jan Torres, whose brother, Edward Toner, was killed in the war shortly after it began.

"The sacrifice made by these individuals will never be forgotten," Uhrig said. "It is important to take the opportunity to recognize those who served."

The Republic of Korea sent over a short video they wanted the veterans and their surviving family members to watch. Most were teary-eyed by the end of the video, which thanked America over and over again for coming to their aid. The video called Americans their friends and thanked Americans for their continued friendship. The video showed the Republic of Korean and American soldiers working side by side for the same goal. It also showed photos of civilians who died and how even though the countries couldn't speak the same language they cry the same.

At the end of the video, the Republic of Korea was proud to say that more than 60 years after the war they are the 10th largest economic power in the world. The video stated they are the first country to go from receiving aid to giving it.

Sixteen Sweetwater County residents or the surviving members of the family received medals at the ceremony from retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. John Gatti, retired U.S. Marine Corps. Lt. Col Pete Bailiff, retired United States Air Force Dr. Philip Parnell and retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Don Van Matre, including four Green River residents Celestino Cordova, Jack Edwards, Henry H. Holbrook and Richard D. Schuck.

Some of the surviving family members and the veterans were willing to talk about the experience and what receiving a medal like this meant to them.

Rita James, Cordova's daughter, said she could tell with the handshakes she received from those handing out the medals that the thanks was coming from their hearts.

"It was just very emotional. It was so overwhelming," James said. "When you're military it's a different kind of a family."

James had a hard time putting into words just exactly how she felt.

"I was so proud. I don't know how to explain it," she said. "Other than watching my father retire it was the proudest moment of my life."

James said her father was a bit of a rule breaker and had actually joined the Army before he was old enough to. Because he was a man of small stature, the Army kept asking him if he was old enough to join. Of course he kept telling them "yes." They still checked on him, but by the time they realized he wasn't of age, Cordova had had a birthday and was of age so they left him alone. James said her father was proud of the nickname Peewee, which was what all of his Army buddies called him.

Cordova was in the Army for more than 20 years and then he worked at Texas Gulf until his retirement. During his time in the Army, Cordova served in the Korean War and also two tours in the Vietnam War.

Green River Resident Kelly Hughes and her son Michael accepted the medal for her grandfather Henry H. Holbrook. Holbrook served in the Army March 25, 1943-March 1, 1946, March 1, 1946-Feb. 28, 1949, and June 3, 1949-Nov. 20, 1952. He was in the Korean War and World War II.

During his time in the military, Holbrook collected quite a few medals and honors, including the Purple Heart, American Campaign Medal, Good Conduct Medal, WWII Victory Medal, Korean War Service Medal, Two Bronze Service Stars, United Nations Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge.

"He has quite a collection of medals," Hughes said. "When we heard about it being given, we wanted to make sure he received that."

"My son and I were both very honored to receive that for my grandfather," Hughes said. "He was always very proud to be a member of the military."

Hughes said he was always putting on his uniform and proudly wearing it on Veteran's Day. Hughes said when her grandfather was serving in the Korean War, it was very cold.

She recalled him talking about how his feet were frozen. He didn't lose his feet, but he always had problems with them for the rest of his life. He received a purple heart for the injuries he received in the war. She said her father just liked to serve and after his time in the military he became a police officer.

Hughes was proud to take part in the ceremony.

"It was a great honor," Hughes said. "I just had such a wonderful feeling. It was a very powerful ceremony."

Schuck, although assisted, was able to walk up and receive the medal himself.

He was proud to have his daughter at his side to receive the medal.

"That's the second thing they did for me," Schuck said.

He said in the 1990s the Republic of Korea had invited 150 American soldiers who fought in the Korean War to come back to South Korea and see how things had changed. At first, Schuck was on the alternate list and didn't think he'd really get to go, but then two weeks before it was time to leave he got a call and he was told he and a guest could get their bags packed. He took his daughter-in-law and was amazed at the warm welcome they received as they rode the tour buses across the country.

"They're pretty grateful," he said. "The workers would stop and salute the busses."

As for the medal, it didn't surprise him at all.

"It's pretty amazing that they remember," Schuck said.

As for the war itself, Schuck said he didn't do much. He said he was in artillery and when the war let up for a bit he was sent to work in the mess hall. He worked in the mess hall for the remainder of the war. It was his job to provide 190 men with three meals a day. Schuck had to leave the mess hall to find supplies to cook the meals.

"I enjoyed it," he said. "I got to travel around Korea and pick up supplies.

 

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