Whenever enemy forces shot and hit U.S. aircraft during the Korean War, airframe repairman Jesus Perez patched them up so soldiers could return to combat.
“My job was to fix the bullet holes in the aircraft,” said Perez, a retired first sergeant who served in the Korean War. “I did quite a bit of it, just about daily. It was quite an honor.”
Perez, recruiting chair for Chapter 222 of the Korean War Veterans Association, was among about 50 people who attended the unveiling of a Korean War Monument on Saturday at Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery in Killeen.
The monument recognizes the service and sacrifice of the 37,000 Americans who gave their lives in combat in Korea, the 400 prisoners of war who never returned and more than 8,000 still listed as missing in action in the “forgotten war,” said retired Command Sgt. Maj. Homer Garza, president of the veterans association.
Several Koreans also attended the ceremony and said they were honored to recognize the Americans for their service.
“South Korean people will never forget your heroic sacrifice. May God bless (the) families of fallen heroes of the United States of America,” K.C. Chung said.
Retired Lt. Gen. H.G. “Pete” Taylor, who served as commander of III Corps and Fort Hood from 1991 to 1993, said the memorial is a way to remind “those who have passed on and lie beneath the stones in this beautiful cemetery and other cemeteries cross our great nation” that they are not forgotten for their fight against communism.
“Had it not been for your bravery and sacrifice, the world might be a far different place for our children and grandchildren today. The Cold War might still be raging, the tyranny of communism might still be growing had you not drawn the line of freedom (separating North and South Korea) at the 38th parallel,” Taylor said. “Freedom’s line was drawn with the precious blood of the sons and daughters of the Republic of Korea and the United States.”
Taylor said the Korean veterans who deployed in the 1950s are the vanguard of an epic 60-year battle between democracy and communism that continues today.
“You war (veterans) must not be forgotten, not only because of the sacrifice and blood you and your comrades made, but also because of the lesson your history can teach us,” Taylor said. “Your stories must be remembered, must be studied, must be analyzed and retold.”