CHINHAE, Republic of Korea (NNS) -- Vietnam veterans from the United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK) were honored during a ceremony at Commander, Fleet Activities Chinhae (CFAC) Jan. 26.
The ceremony, hosted by CFAC -- an official partner in the United States of America Vietnam War Commemorative Partner Program, was designed to thank and honor Vietnam veterans and their families.
Rear Adm. Bill Byrne, commander of Navy Region Korea and keynote speaker for the ceremony, thanked the veterans for their sacrifice and service.
"You raised your right hand, served with honor, and humbly returned to a country divided," Byrne said. "Yet your dedication never wavered, and your presence today signifies the strength of your commitment to the ideals for which you fought."
Byrne went on to make specific note of the cultural divide that impacted the return of many U.S. veterans.
"Your generation carried the burden of a nation that was unable to separate their feelings toward the war with their feelings toward their warriors," Byrne said. "Though we haven't always shown it, the United States and the Republic of Korea have always revered their warriors."
Vietnam veteran, Kim Seon-Gon, the president of GyeongNam Province Vietnam Veterans Association shared positive memories of serving with U.S. service members.
"We are always thankful for the U.S. and our other allies," said Kim. "We fought together in the Korean War and we fought together in defense of South Vietnam. We thought it then and still believe that the Republic of Korea and the United States of America will continue to work alongside each other."
ROK Navy Rear Adm. Song, Taek Keun, the commander of Jinhae Naval Base, echoed Kim's sentiment by commenting on the U.S. and ROK alliance as the significant role the Vietnam War played in ROK military history.
"About 50 years ago, Republic of Korea raised the flag of 'Justice and Freedom' along with the United States of America to stop the expansion of communism," Song said. "It was the Republic of Korea's first deployment of its armed forces to a foreign country since the foundation of the Republic of Korea."
According to the Defense POW/MIA Office, more than 58,000 U.S. service members were killed during the conflict that took place between 1955 and 1975 and more than 1,600 are still labeled as missing in action.
The observance is authorized by the secretary of defense to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War by coordinating, supporting and facilitating programs and activities of federal, state and local governments, and other persons and organizations. The Commemoration began in May 2012 and will continue until September 2025.
Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Korea recently shifted to Busan and is the only U.S. Navy headquarters in Korea stationed on a ROK base. CNFK is the regional commander for the U.S. Navy in the ROK and provides expertise on naval matters to area military commanders, including the Commander of the United Nations Command, the Combined Forces Command, and Commander, U.S. Forces Korea.
For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Korea, visit www.navy.mil/local/cnfk/.