CEYLON - Lyle Anderson admits he always wondered how the people of Korea thought of the American soldiers who fought in their land 60 years ago. But any lingering doubts he may have had were wiped away when he attended the "Heroes Remembered" ceremony last month in Washington D.C.
The "Heroes Remembered" event was to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War. Anderson, thanks to his daughter Ann Soderlund, attended the event in Washington D.C. on July 27.
"My daughter was the one that kept pushing us to go and made the arrangements," Anderson admitted. "The Korean Vets Association was having their convention at that time."
A group of schoolchildren asked to have a photo taken alongside Lyle Anderson while touring the World War II monument in Washington D.C.
While Anderson is the only known local Korean veteran to attend the ceremony, the event honored all Korean vets. About 5,000 people turned out for the event, where about 1,500 Korean veterans honored for their efforts.
"The unique thing is the medals they gave us were made from the recycled barbed wire that marked the demilitarized zone, or DMZ, between North and South Korea," Anderson said.
Speakers ranged from President Barack Obama (whose speech was televised from the event) to U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, to Chairman of the Republic of Korea Joint Chiefs General Jung.
"They also had the first four-star general of Korea, and he's 93 years old," Anderson said. "It's amazing to see how grateful that nation is for what we'd done. After the treaty, they are now one of the top economic nations; they have a free democratic country."
Over the years, Anderson has had a few experiences that have shown him just how much his service meant to the people of Korea.
"I'd wondered what the Koreans thought of us," he said. "When my son was in college, he'd brought home some Korean exchange students. Those two boys thanked me nearly every single day for being over there. They said if it wasn't for our soldiers, they would not have the good life they have today. It was really great to get acquainted with them."
That point was driven home even more during the "Heroes Remembered" ceremony.
"At the World War II memorial, I had my medals on, and I must've looked like some big hero," Anderson said. "I had these two women ask to take their picture with me. Then there was a group of schoolchildren there and they all just crowded around me, wanting a picture. Every single one of those children said, 'Thank you for serving.' It broke me up. ... If you didn't feel like a hero going in there, you definitely felt like one coming out. It's just too bad that every Korean vet couldn't be there. Because we were all in there, we were a part of it, and they wanted us to know that we were all heroes. We didn't get a big welcome when we first came back, but they've made it up to us since."