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Veterans' Perspective


America's Korean War veterans are often called upon to make speeches during Memorial Day and Veterans Day programs, as well as at other special functions. Many of these speeches are more than excellent listening. They are excellent reading material as well.   In addition, veterans often voice their personal opinions in messages to the Korean War Educator.

This page of the Korean War Educator carries the text of veterans' speeches and messages. If any of our readers have text that was presented by a Korean War veteran and you would like to post it on this page, contact Lynnita Brown, 111 E. Houghton St., Tuscola, IL 61953. [The KWE reserves the right to refuse publication of off-color or politically partisan messages.]  E-mail: lynnita@koreanwar-educator.org. Photographs of the veteran who made the comments are welcome and encouraged.

This page opened on the Korean War Educator on November 10, 2001 (the Marine Corps birthday), with a speech made by Korean War 1st Provisional Marine Brigade and Chosin veteran, Ray L. Walker of Brentwood, TN.

Page Contents:

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Ray L. Walker - Brentwood, TN

The following speech was presented before guests at a Veteran’s Day celebration at The Hermitage in Tennessee on Saturday, November 10, 2001. The orator was Ray L. Walker of Brentwood, TN. Ray was a member of the United States Marine Corps 1st Provisional Marine Brigade during the Korean War. He was a BAR man in the 3rd platoon, Able Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines. His tour of duty in Korea lasted from August of 1950, when he fought in the Pusan Perimeter, to December of 1950, when he was wounded on Hill 1282 in the Chosin Reservoir. His speech at the Heritage is reprinted on the Korean War Educator with his permission.

Ray Walkers memoirs can also be found on the Korean War Educator.



By Ray L. Walker

Good morning. Honored guests, civilian and military, and all our veterans. As a veteran I have been asked to tell you what motivates our service; why we are willing to help keep our nation free.

It is altogether fitting that we meet here at The Hermitage, home of General Andy Jackson, the hero of the Battle of New Orleans. General Jackson was prouder of being a general in the American military than he was having been president.

Today we are here to honor all veterans of our wars. And today has a very special place in the hearts of all Marines, present and former, for it is the 226th birthday of my beloved Marine Corps, founded at Tun Tavern, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on this day in 1775, eight months before the birth of our nation.

Today, as a veteran and as a concerned citizen, I am both privileged and deeply honored to be asked to address this audience.

I could tell you many stories of bravery, of death at the hands of an enemy, of decent young men who were taught well how to fight and kill, who succeeded in defeating our nations enemies, and yet who came home to a disinterested society, in the case of the Korean War, and to a hostile society in the case of Vietnam. In Vietnam the American Military won every major battle. We lost the war politically on the home front. Why. Are there similar sounds of defeatism and pacifism again sounding from the neighborhoods of America? I've heard a few. So far the nation is behind our men we've sent in harm's way.

Recently I received an e-mail from an anonymous source quoting the heart-felt beliefs of a man presently serving our nation as a Naval pilot. I was so moved by what he had to say that I have taken the liberty of including some of his thoughts in my presentation to you today. Whether you are presently serving in the military or are a veteran, I think I can speak for most you. But I now want to touch the hearts and minds of those here who have never been in the military.

I will attempt to give you one man’s view of these past months from my military perspective.

Who are we? We are citizens who are or have been engaged in the profession of arms in defense of our homes, our country, our friends.

We swear before God Almighty to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all its enemies, foreign and domestic, and to obey the lawful orders of the President of the United States.
Why the Constitution? Why does it not say "defend the country," or its people? We defend the Constitution because it defines the country completely. It, more than any other document, or cause, or belief, holds us together as a nation. Until we scrap the Constitution for something new, that document will define and sustain our nation.

What does it say? In part it says:

"We, the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Where did these words come from? They come from the Declaration of Independence, which made the promises the Constitution fulfilled:

"We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights. Among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. To secure these Rights Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed; that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it and to institute a new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

This nation’s purpose is to provide a place where the government brings safety, allows happiness through the protection of life and liberty, and gives its people the justice and tranquility that is the right of all free men everywhere. This we swear to defend.

Today and for the past three decades, our military has consisted of citizen volunteers. Therefore, the military has become something apart from you, something you join or don’t join, but something not part of you. You feel you do not understand it and often view it as some large unseen power. But it is not. It is you and me, It is us, citizen-soldiers who love the country and all it stands for. Many in the Services have chosen it as their life’s work. Why, when they could make three or four times their present salary working fifteen days a month, never going on six-month deployments to parts of the world few have any interest in seeing? Why stay in? They stay in because they feel it is important.

My anonymous writer says it all!

"Our beliefs in country, liberty, fairness, charity, democracy, are not merely words or passing thoughts. They are tangible rocks of granite, permanent and unshakeable, as clear to us as the ground we walk upon. They define us. They keep us on watch in the Persian Gulf when it is 130 degrees outside. They guide us in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in a storm that makes our ship impossible to see. They are who we are, and we are you.

"What do we do? Easy, we do what you want us to do. We prepare for and develop plans against enemies our Commander-in-Chief tells us to prepare for. We recommend, but we do not prepare, we do not plan, we do not act against anyone or anything that you the people have not told us to do. We who care about this country, vote for and hold accountable our representatives to control and guide our citizen-soldiers.

"As a citizen I vote. I have political beliefs. I care who represents me. As a soldier, I don’t care who represents me. I follow the lawful orders of the President, no matter whom it may be, because my Constitution tells me to.

"Did they fail us on September 11? Perhaps, perhaps not. We citizens love life, we love liberty, we love happiness. But which do we love more? It depends on the times. This threat has been there for years. Tuesday, September 11th, was not more dangerous than Monday. Tuesday was just the day it happened. Until then, we loved liberty and happiness more than life, because circumstances did not threaten life. Now life is threatened. Now Liberty, and that happiness that comes from liberty, are not held in the same regard as before."

Before this tragedy we did not want the military to be seen in our homes. We would fight the fights away from home, before they became part of our home. In this new age, we see that the fight can always come home. Israeli citizens love liberty and happiness as much as you or I do, but the fight has always been in their homes. So they accept soldiers on the corner, soldiers in the sky, soldiers where they eat and shop and travel, because they understand the importance of life. Now it is here. And we will decide how much we want the military to be in our lives here at home.

Our citizen-soldiers will do what you want. They will certainly recommend what they think is best and what they think we can do, but ultimately it is the citizens who will decide, because that is what our Founders believed was the way to govern.

What can we do? You’ve listened to what the newsmen say on TV. "This is hard, it is a new kind of war, it may not be possible." I know what we can do. What our country can do. What we, the people can do. Do not abide in fear. That is what the terrorist wants.

In the winter of 1950 the 1st Marine Division was surrounded by over 7 divisions of the enemy. The news here in the USA predicted that the Marines were doomed. But we destroyed our enemy and we came out with our dead and wounded, our vehicles and weapons, leaving over 35,000 enemy dead on the field of battle. So don’t let the media discourage you. Our military will win this struggle.

Today we can collect ten warships, led by a 100,000-ton ship powered by two nuclear reactors, all built by citizens. We can put seventy aircraft on this ship, and with the other nine ships, sail from San Diego to the other side of the planet, and stay there. And stay there. And stay there. For days, or weeks, or months. We do not need the help of others to do this.

These men often have been there for more than two months without setting foot on land. The ship is re-fueled, re-armed, and re-fed at sea as needed.

Our military can do whatever you ask them to do. If you tell them to, they will do their profession. Calmly, efficiently, methodically, they will find our enemy and destroy him. Our military leaders will tell our president what their plan is, what the cost is, what the risks are. And the president will decide whether you the citizen deem the risks acceptable and the costs payable. As citizens, we will choose the course to take, the pain to bear, the cost to shoulder. Our military will do our bidding, they will accept the risk, and they will complete the mission you tell them to.

Do not worry that you ask too much. Do not fret that the mission is too hard. All they ask is for your guidance, and, unlike Vietnam, once the decision is made, to remain with them until the mission is complete.

Pray for them and for each other. From the military point of view, they are not separate from you. They are us. Together we create and build and man the machines that protect us. Give them your trust as they have given you theirs, and then watch them do our bidding until we are satisfied.

And in closing let me quote the Cadet Maxim from the United States Military Academy, West Point, N.Y.

Risk more than others think is safe.
Care more than others think is wise.
Dream more than others think is practical.
Expect more than others think is possible.

"No legacy is so rich as honesty."

May God Bless and Keep you this day and all the days ahead.

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What We Fought For

authored by Anthony J. DeBlasi - 2012

My father dodged the bullet in World War I.  My brother dodged the bullet in World War II.  And I dodged the bullet in the Korean War.  My son was not in the Vietnam War because he was four at the time it started.  This pattern of generation-to-generation warriors underscores a fact of 20th century life missed by many: most able-bodied men served in the armed forces, either by choice or by draft.  Of the 10 million 20th century American fighters, over 600,000 never returned from the battlefields.  A good many retrained for the next war.  A great many suffered disabilities for the rest of their lives.  And we cannot fully appreciate the great price paid for the privilege of living in America until we add their families to the count of sacrifices in all these wars.

Each survivor, maimed or not, endures a degree of mental hardship.  On a scale of 1 to 10, mine is 2 or 3, trivial compared to most war-zone hang-ups, but nevertheless real: a lifelong sense of guilt for being a tech support soldier, while fellow fighters faced hell and a dear friend nearly lost his life.  Objective explanations won't help.  Part of my military baggage is that I can't stop mulling over the terrible suffering in Korea and the enormous death toll--a persistent damper to complete peace of mind.

It is clear that veterans and active military service men and women have paid, and continue to pay, a dear price for our country.  What made us--what makes them--serve?  My quick personal answer is, I'm sure, a ditto for most fighters: I served not just out of a sense of duty or call from the draft board but out of great respect for my country and deep appreciation for its blessings to my family, me, and my friends.

Speaking from the platform of politics and economics, cynics will claim that we were expendable in causes not worthy of such sacrifice.  But it takes just one fiber of moral sense to reject this opinion.  To take it seriously, we must believe that the unprecedented suffering, blood and tears were the result of a colossal mockery of justice at the hands of human devils.  With morality as guide, and sanity a precondition for thinking, we must reason that defending our country and its way of life outweighs contrary opinions, even those supported by evidence of wrongdoing by our leaders.  In the spirit, then, of airing this issue justly and reasonably, let us ask directly: What did over 600,000 (and still counting in this century) young Americans die for?  What way of life did they, and we who survived, defend?

I can only list some of the answers.

We fought for a country where you

  • may do whatever you please (within the law);

  • are well fed, even though poor;

  • have access to excellent medical care, though poor;

  • have access to a great variety of products and services;

  • may vote regardless of sex, creed, color of skin, handicap, or affiliation;

  • may run for public office (with sufficient backing)

  • may worship or not worship as you please;

  • may say what you wish (under court-approved standards of "freedom of speech")

  • may exercise your "freedom of speech" to desecrate sacred symbols;

  • may exercise your "freedom of speech" by staging a hate demonstration at a private burial ceremony;

  • may exercise your "freedom of speech" to buy unawarded military medals and falsely pretend or claim to have served in the military;

  • may not exercise your "freedom of speech" by demonstrating outside an abortion clinic;

  • may compete in the work market without citizenship;

  • have access to the benefits of citizenship without being a citizen;

  • must give up one third or more of your income to the government;

  • are constantly exposed to deceptive pricing ($9.99 instead of $10.00, $99.99 instead of $100, $3.87 (superscript 9) for a gallon of gas instead of $3.88 [the tiny superscript is 9/10 of a cent], etc.;

  • are expected to respect every religion except Christianity;

  • can jump ahead of white people in your pursuit of educational or employment opportunities;

  • may have your children taught things in public school that you don't want them taught, without your consent, even without your knowledge;

  • can kill your parents, your husband, and get away with it if the court can be made to believe that the murder was "justified" on grounds of abuse;

  • may kill a baby, as long as it is not complete outside the body of its mother, if that is her wish;

  • are subject to shame, even litigation, if you say or do anything against women in combat, open homosexuals in the military, "same-sex marriage," or children living and growing up with two "fathers" and no mother, or two "mothers" and no father;

  • will find that what was right yesterday can be wrong today--and what was wrong yesterday can be right today--all subject to a "living Constitution" as interpreted and reinterpreted by the Supreme Court at any given moment.

Honor our veterans and active service members.
Please do not blame them for our leaders' and lawmakers'
shortcomings or lack of courage.



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