LETART — What was once forgotten by some, is being remembered in a field in Mason County throughout the weekend.
The Traveling Korean War Memorial arrived at Letart Nature Park on Thursday with an opening ceremony held Friday to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Speaking at the event was Lt. Colonel Robert Kincaid with the West Virginia Army National Guard, 1092nd Battalion.
“This is not a memorial to war but a memorial to peace…I am proud to be here and help honor American peacemakers who served during the Korean War. America’s uniformed sons and daughters went to Korean not for themselves…they fought so the enslaved might be free…in the sea, and in the air, and in the gullies, and ridges. And to our Korean War Veterans, a grateful nation thanks you for what you did, for stopping totalitarianism. The entire free world still salutes you.
Over 54,000 gave their lives and over 103,000 were wounded and still thousands are unaccounted for. To those who stand here today, I salute you.”
Also speaking was Jeannie Ignash of Lancaster, Ohio, who is responsible for bringing the traveling memorial to life through her group “Freedom’s Never Free.”
Describing herself as an “Army brat,” she talked about her father who was in the military, how he insisted she and her sister raise the flag at 6 a.m. each day and lower it at 6 p.m.
She said there was no saying “can’t” in her father’s house, which may explain her drive to build not only the Korean Memorial replica found in Washington, DC, but a replica of the WWII memorial, also in the Nation’s capital, as well as a Traveling Small Wars & Conflicts Memorial.
When it comes to the Korean Memorial, it consists of 19 soldiers walking through a Korean rice paddy with three soldiers off to the side setting up a campfire. Ignash explained the soldiers are all coated with LineX to withstand the weather and elements – this is typically found in truck beds. The memorial has 24-hour security and Ignash said she’s been told, particularly at night or in fog, the soldiers appear even more lifelike with some spectators insisting they are moving.
On its way to Letart, the traveling memorial received an escort by the Patriot Guard Riders and locally, it was met with salutes by law enforcement and first responders. She said driving beneath the ladder trucks near the Bridge of Honor in Pomeroy “took your breath away” on Thursday.
Arriving at the memorial on Friday was Korean War Veteran Kinzy Smith and wife Delma of Point Pleasant. Kinzy served in the U.S. Navy and said he’d seen the real memorial in Washington as well as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, where his brother Keith Curry is listed. Kinzy said he’d heard about the traveling memorial through the VFW where he is a member and wanted to visit, saying “it’s nice” that the community was able to host this event. Smith was one of several Korean War veterans who made the trek to the memorial.
In addition to the statutes, volunteers have placed 543 American flags in the Nature Park to represent, in part, those killed in the Korean War.
Giving the invocation was Pastor John Bumgarner, also a veteran from the United State Air Force, with additional remarks by Marilyn Kearns and Mary Grimm from the Letart Nature Park and Community Center. Presenting the colors were Stewart-Johnson V.F.W. Post 9926 of Mason and Smith-Capehart American Legion Post 140 of New Haven.
There’s still time to see the traveling memorial which will be at the Letart Nature Park just behind the Letart Community Center until noon on Sunday. It is open to the public 24 hours a day. Admission is free. Letart is located about 14 miles outside Point Pleasant.
“Memorial Day is a day to remember those who have fallen…try to find a way to thank a veteran,” Ignash said.
Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.
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