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Not forgotten: Korean War veterans remember on the 60th anniversary

By , Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter
Published: June 26, 2010, 12:00am
3 Photos
Will Hayden, left, a Korean War veteran, receives a plaque honoring his service Friday from the Rev. Jerry Keesee, American Legion chaplain. From June 25, 1950, to July 27, 1953, the U.S. military death toll in Korea was 36,516.
Will Hayden, left, a Korean War veteran, receives a plaque honoring his service Friday from the Rev. Jerry Keesee, American Legion chaplain. From June 25, 1950, to July 27, 1953, the U.S. military death toll in Korea was 36,516. Photo Gallery

Korean War veterans can request a letter of appreciation at: http://eng.koreanwar60.go.kr/apply.asp.

‘The Forgotten War” is the description engraved at the bottom of the county’s Korean War monument.

Will Hayden hasn’t forgotten. After six decades, Hayden still bites his lip and blinks back tears as he recalls the people he served with in Korea.

The Vancouver resident was one of the veterans who gathered Friday afternoon to mark the 60th anniversary of the start of the Korean War.

The observance was held at the Clark County Korean War Veterans Memorial.

Hayden was just 17 years old, but he was already in the U.S. Army when North Korea invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950.

Korean War veterans can request a letter of appreciation at: http://eng.koreanwar60.go.kr/apply.asp.

He wound up as a medic in a rifle company. It earned him the nickname of “Doc” and an interesting job description.

“You’re the idiot who runs out there when somebody else yells,” Hayden said.

He’d do what he could, then evacuate the wounded to a mobile hospital — the sort of medical facility familiar to viewers of “M*ASH.”

Hayden didn’t always know how his patients fared. But there was one soldier …

“He came to the aid station and said he’d been shot in the back. I told him to turn around, and it was like he had buttonholes across the back of his shirt,” Hayden said. “He’d been shot by a burp gun.

“There aren’t many guys with five bullet holes in their back who are still walking around.”

Hayden, who spent 21 years in the Army, came across the same soldier during the Vietnam War.

It wasn’t all combat injuries, Hayden added: “People froze to death beside you.”

After the ceremony, a Korean-born woman came over to thank Hayden for his service. When the woman said she was born three years after the war, Hayden said that meant he wouldn’t have her picture.

He had photos of Korean kids? Yeah, Hayden said. He’d look at the photographs occasionally, Hayden said, and “I always wonder if they lived.”

Hayden likes to stay in touch with the people who share those memories, but it’s getting tougher.

“You try to call. The phone’s disconnected,” Hayden said. “You know they’re gone.”

Hayden and several other veterans received a framed thank-you letter from the government of South Korea during the ceremony.

There also was a letter of appreciation from Haryong Lee, the South Korean consul general in Seattle; a letter from South Korean President Lee Myung-bak; and a proclamation from Gov. Chris Gregoire declaring June 25, 2010, as Korean War Remembrance Day.

The ceremony on Vancouver’s Veterans Affairs campus included a chaplain’s recitation of the names of 39 men who made the ultimate sacrifice: Clark County servicemen whose names were engraved on the memorial.

They were among more than 36,516 U.S. military personnel who, according to The Associated Press, died before hostilities stopped on July 27, 1953.

As the Rev. Jerry Keesee pronounced each name, Korean War veteran Dick Quatier struck a bell to salute the fallen soldier. The 30th name on the list belonged to his brother, Robert D. Quatier.

Fellow veteran Dick Kim also had a brother on the list — Chan Jay Kim Jr.

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Dick Quatier, Dick Kim and Byung Ju “B.J.” Ji, chairman of the Korean Society of Vancouver, led the effort to get the memorial installed.

It was dedicated in September, providing a fitting site for Friday’s observance.

Speaking for Quatier as well as himself, Kim said: “We have some closure now, with our brothers’ names on the memorial.”

Tom Vogt: 360-735-4558 or tom.vogt@columbian.com.

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