U.S. Army 40th Infantary Division Veterans visit schools in Gapyeong (Kapyong) and Pocheon their unit built for Korean students during and after war.
Fourteen Korean War veterans arrived in Korea on Monday, Febrauary 1, 2016 to participate in the graduation ceremonies of middle and high schools they helped build during the 1950-53 war.
The American war veterans were accompanied by 22 sons and daughters of Korean War veterans and three soldiers from the U.S. 40th Infantry Division (40ID), including its commander Maj. Gen. Lawrence A. Haskins.
They are planning to attend a graduation ceremony at Gapyeong High School, Thursday, , Febuary 4th after attending one at Kwanin Middle and High School in Pocheon a day earlier.
The schools, both in Gyeonggi Province, were established by 40ID during the war and its aftermath ― the Gapyong school in 1952 and Kwanin in 1955.
During the graduation ceremonies, the war veterans and their family members will also present scholarships from former and current 40ID members to the schools to maintain their 60-year friendship with the students there, the ministry said.
Deeply moved by Korean students who were studying under almost-collapsed tents on the frontlines, then-division commander Maj. Gen. Joseph Cleland and his soldiers collected $2 from each soldier and built the Gapyong High School in the midst of the war in August 1952.
At the time, 40ID was stationed at Gapyeong, some 60 kilometers northeast of Seoul, to fend off Communist forces from the north.
Gen. Cleland decided to name the school Kaiser Middle High School after Sergeant First Class Kenneth Kaiser, the first 40ID soldier to be killed in action. Kaiser died in battle in January 1952 at the age of 19.
At that time, local residents called the school "Gaisa," the Korean pronunciation of "Kaiser." It was later renamed Gaisa Middle School and Gaisa High School, and is currently Gapyong High School.
Kwanin Middle School was built in April 1955, also by 40ID as part of their rebuilding efforts following the ceasefire agreement. First Lieutenant Vam Hoef, who designed Gapyong High School, also designed the Kwanin school building, the ministry said. Kwanin High School was built later in 1971.
During their visit, veterans and bereaved families are also planning to visit the South-controlled side of the Demilitarized Zone and attend a banquet hosted by Minister of Patriots and Veterans Affairs Park Sung-choon, the ministry added.
A revisit program for war veterans began in 1975, and as of last year, some 30,000 veterans and their families have returned to Korea after the war. The program has contributed a lot to strengthening relations with the nation of the Korean War Allies that committed troops and medical support to the war and boosting the nation's image by expressing our gratitude for their sacrifice and service.