Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Day 10 - Going Home

Today we woke with an early start to head home. Although we are leaving the sides of our veterans this morning, they are not leaving our hearts. It was hard on everyone to load the colorful and highly decorated Korean bus for the last time. We waved goodbye out the windows to our wonderful veterans who have adopted us over the last ten days. Many eyes were filled with tears, but others expressed pure joy because we all know this is just the beginning. It is comforting to know that these goodbyes are merely 'see you laters.'

It was bittersweet to depart for home and reflect over our precious time spent in this beautiful country. Our journey in Korea was exciting, insightful, and full of exploration. However, nothing compares to the deep relationships that we have cultivated with the veterans that accompanied us on this trip. The veteran we were paired with was Mr. Tremblay and we are looking forward to keeping in touch with him.  He is planning on bringing his wife down to College of the Ozarks in a few months so we can meet her. He has become family to us over such a short period of time. God placed this great man in our lives and nothing has made us happier than having the opportunity to learn from him. From inside jokes to deep conversations to precious gifts, Mr. Tremblay captured our hearts and not only ours but everyone on this trip!

"My (Alli) grandpa fought alongside the nine sweet-hearted veterans that we had with us on this trip. Although, he is no longer with us today and was unable to revisit Korea after the war, I know how proud he is of me and all the students on this trip, to be able to experience history in this manner."

I (C.W.) left ten days ago embarking on a voyage with little expectations; I had no idea what lay in store.  I left with an open mind and heart and my how it was filled!  I saw first hand the effect that my grandfather, Mr. Tremblay and the others we traveled with, had on a nation and people.  The Korean people are truly grateful and it was a blessing to see their gratitude.  They are inspiring in how hard they work and study to take advantage of the freedom they have been given.  They have only to look a few kilometers north to see what could have been, had it not been for the great sacrifice of the men that fought there; and now they are the tenth largest economy in the world only 60 years after the war!  I pray that I can inspire the people of America to look back and see where it is we have come from and where we could have been had it not been for the sacrifice of these men.

Over the past ten days we have been able to see firsthand what our country, loved ones, and service men/women were able to provide for South Korea.  They defended people they did not know in a land they had never heard of. Being able to experience this and share the memories of nine outstanding men is something that words cannot describe. This opportunity gave us knowledge that cannot be learned from reading a textbook and can be passed on for generations to come.

We have made lifelong friends on this trip. Mr. Tremblay, or Lt. Col. Tremblay was the gentleman, we had the great pleasure of spending the week getting to know.  From him we have learned a great deal; not only about Korea, the Korean War and United States Air Force, but he shared with us valuable life lessons and his love for our Lord.  it was an incredible experience spending the week with a man that has lived four times our lifetime with more than four lifetimes worth of wisdom.  Mr. Tremblay constantly told us throughout the trip: "Bloom where you are planted and prepare to be transplanted at a moments notice." This greatly applies to our trip because we were able to grow and flourish in knowledge over the past week. Now we are ready to incorporate these lessons into all aspects of our lives as students, employees, family members, and friends.  This experience was life-changing and will stay with us forever as we are transplanted throughout our lifetime.  Mr. Tremblay was one of the most genuinely encouraging and inspiring individuals we have ever met.

Today we said goodbye to Korea, but are going home with more than we thought was possible..Our appreciation for our military, country and loved ones who fought in the Korean War will never stop growing.  I (C.W.) wish more than anything that my grandfather was still alive, so I could share this experience with him. However, I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to honor him and his memory on this trip!

College of the Ozarks has provided us with an incredible opportunity that many of us could have only dreamed about.  Thank you for making it a reality for us.  From this trip our worldview has grown immensely, along with our understanding of Korean culture.

Today we returned to Point Lookout, MO, United States of America, changed, and for the better.  We will never forget.

C.W. Elliott and Alli Chandler

Monday, October 7, 2013

Day 9 - Visit to Chosan Palace Omnuri Church and Farewell

"When I grew up as a boy in Indiana, we took baths every Saturday night right before church the next day. That was our only time of the week!" David Williams explained as we prepared to get on the tour bus this morning.  Telling stories from his past is a common thing that occurs around Corporal David Williams, so let us share some of them.

First on the agenda today, was touring the Chosan Palace in the middle of Seoul. Pulling into the parking lot, we saw a huge asian looking building. Little did we know that it was only the front gate of this extravagant palace. Throughout the estate, we walked around dozens of historic Korean structures in the palace that the royal family lived in, and of course, posed by many Asian looking statues for photo opportunities. (Cant miss out on those!) From learning about the lifestyle and habits of the king, to the legendary history that goes back over 500 years, this experience was spectacular!

In addition to the palace, we were able to tour the secret garden located in the rear of the palace where the king and queen regulated limited viewing access. Walking through, it felt like we were in a mystical wonderland of greenery. With lush green landscapes surrounding the Korean stone paths leading to many pristine lagoons, it was breathtaking!

After our exploration, we once again loaded our bedazzled bus to travel to a local restaurant. Hearing that it was once again Korean cuisine, half the group looked for the nearest McDonalds, while the other half cheered. I (Ruth), however, began to frantically search for a fork. Chopsticks are still my enemy.  Meanwhile, I (Tyler), headed straight for the food. While trying each of the new Korean side dishes, I decided it would be a great idea to add what I thought was mustard to my plate of rice. Let me tell you,... it was not mustard. I'm not quite sure how anyone manages to eat wasabi and not have their mouth on fire, because mine sure was! Our nurse Lori would be so proud however, because I was definitely hydrated after that! Four glasses of water was still not enough to take away the burn.

Our early afternoon consisted of free time! Many of us broke off into smaller groups and walked around to shop down the small streets of Seoul filled with hundreds of  vendors.
Later on, we were able to attend an English speaking service at Omnuri Church. (Omnuri meaning "all nations"). Filing into the building, the familiar tune of "Nothing but the Blood of Jesus" sounded. To our surprise, hundreds of people stood praising the same God we serve. To our shock, the one and only Francis Chan (Author, Pastor, and Christian Theologian), was preaching for that service!
Mr. Chan straightforwardly spoke about King Asa in II Chronicles and about taking courage.
Afterwards, Mr. Williams exclaimed, "That pastor must have read all of our hearts... because he sure simplified it for us "old folks" yet made it so real to us!"

The best meal of the trip came that night for our farewell dinner. Guess what it was!?... Korean! Misty eyes began to show as Dr. Mullinax began the farewell speech and we awarded our incredible veterans with awards of recognition and appreciation signed by the Secretary of Defense. This night, everyone had a chance to sit back and realize how much this week has truly impacted us all. From getting to know what the veterans lives were like before the war, to how it changed their view on life today, this night brought all the memories to the surface.

One of our favorite memories with David Williams is a conversation with him about the importance of family. With an extraordinarily large family, you would think some would get left out or unloved, but Mr. Williams makes it a point to never let that happen. We (Tyler and Ruth) have both experienced this firsthand today, and this whole week with him. We hope someday you as well, will have the privilege of meeting this incredible, sarcastic, tough loving, sweet gentleman, drill instructor, and Corporal: Mr. David Williams.

Peace out Girl Scouts.
Tyler Allen & Ruth Osborn

Sunday, October 6, 2013

DAY 8 - Day Trip to the DMZ and JSA

How can you describe North Korea? Intense, scary, and crazy? That doesn't even begin to cover the roller-coaster of emotions throughout this day! Literally standing on shared ground, the JSA to be exact, we looked on in fear and awe of the closest North Korean border. Shuffling in and out of buses with passports in hand, identification badges on our chest, and surprisingly toting cameras as well; we toured the ins and outs of the DMZ located along the 38th parallel. 

Now fast forward back to Seoul, the Center Mark Hotel lobby where plans of action are being made. Our mission? Witness the biggest fireworks festival this side of the dateline! Our obstacles? Foreign language, crowded subway stations, and about a bustling million people trying to do the same, literally. Consider us successful, we managed to keep four students and one veteran all together safely and experienced a different world on the streets of Seoul. Dae Song couldn't help but compare that it was sixty years ago the event that brought this many people to gather in the streets was the invasion of the North Korean army. Now, there is fireworks and laughter and happiness. If Peters was with us, who knows how many 'yee-haws!' and 'I love it!' would ring in our ears.

What makes a young strapping high school graduate lad leave the saddle and head for the sea? The US Navy and the desire to see the world, at least that's his story and he is sticking to it. Rich Peters is just oozing with wit and sarcasm that keeps you on your toes. Neither of us can get him to sit down and spin old war stories. Peters will tell you over and over though, that the military will put you where they think you will be the most use. After taking a series of normal entry tests, Peters was in for a surprise when he was assigned to a rigorous 10 month program for radio tech training. He wanted the action, the wind on his face, and the glory of victory. Instead he got to go through addition and subtraction to trigonometry in one week, oh and take a test on all that! After some intense Magyver style training (he was installed with the skill set to build something out of almost nothing) he was finally stationed with a frigate for the remainder of his tour. It wasn't an easy job and though Peters comments that he "was a clog in the big machine". He was important and don't let him tell you otherwise! That's our story and we are sticking to it, yee-haw!

Signing off,
Dae Song and Elizabeth  

Friday, October 4, 2013

Day 7- The Forgotten War... not so 'forgotten' after all.

This evening we sat in our hotel lobby and discussed our experiences of the day with our veteran, retired Army Colonel Oscar "Red" Davis. It has been 60 years since he and most of the veterans in our group have set foot on Korean soil, all these years spent believing their service was in vain.  We asked him what it feels like to finally receive the recognition he and the other veterans deserve, to which he replied,

"...We (America) thought it was forgotten--and it was in our nation. Koreans respect and understand what happened here in the Korean War because it was their lives on the line."

For the Korean people, this war is not so 'forgotten' after all--the people of this  grateful nation continue to honor the veterans who freed their county. Today, we visited the United Nations Memorial Cemetery of Korea, a sacred place initially begun in 1951 on the Northern edge of Busan (then, Pusan). During our time there our veterans honored their fallen "buddies" by placing a wreath at the foot of the American Memorial, followed by a moment of silence and prayer. Morgan also had the opportunity to honor her grandfather, who passed away when she was seven, by wearing the jacket he wore while in service. Having visited the very hill on which he fought and learning about the war from our veterans has allowed her to better understand the conditions her grandfather endured.

Our second and final stop of the day was at Camp Humphrey, a U.S. military base, where we toured the facilities and ate dinner at the D-FAC (dining facility) with current soldiers. Our tour was lead by a military officer,  and a Korean civilian-worker, Peter.

Our guide for the base uses his free time to teach Peter common English phrases. He jokingly shared with us a story from their recent trip to San Antonio, Texas.  While visiting the Alamo, Eric taught Peter the phrase "Remember the Alamo" and the meaning behind it.  At the end of our time at Camp Humphrey, after saying our goodbyes, Peter challenged us with these words: "The U.S. troops saved the Alamo from Mexico.  In the same way, your troops from the U.S. saved our nation from communism and gave us peace here.  We are so thankful for you and your people.  I will never forget the Alamo and never forget what you have done for us here."

There is much that can be learned from the Korean people and from the incredible group of veterans we have been blessed with.  However, possibly the biggest lesson to be learned from the last seven days is the meaning of respect for those in the service, and for Oscar Davis, who we consider to be our grandpa.  Though the trip is winding down, we still look forward to the next few days in the presence of these incredible veterans.  We will no longer display indifference toward our servicemen and women, but be grateful.  We will no longer feel entitled to the freedom we enjoy, but learn from the Korean people to be thankful.  We will no longer forget the sacrifices of the fallen or those who remain, but we will always choose to remember.

Rob Sindorf and Morgan Sowell

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Day 6 - Travel to Busan, UN Forces First Battle Memorial, and Dabudong War Memorial Museum

Greetings from Busan, South Korea!

We began the day by loading up on the bus to head south to Busan. The trip began with our second "Round Table" discussion with our Navy and Air Force veterans. Mr. Kent began by telling us about his experiences in the Navy during the Korean War.  One of his ship's primary roles was shore bombardment and one of their biggest accomplishments was knocking out the trestle on a bridge, which caused the enemy train to fall into the ravine. His division received the "Train-Buster" award for this achievement.

Next, Mr. Peters followed up on his Navy experiences. He attended Fire Patrol Technician School instead of immediate departure to Korea. In Korea, he spent most of his time in the Sea of Japan. He worked on a fueling vessel, which was vital to the war efforts in Korea.

Next we heard from Mr. Keller, who was sent to Pearl Harbor in June of 1950 where he was stationed for two years with the Navy. His primary role there was to train night pilots for Korea, where most missions were accomplished in the cover of darkness. He also inspected equipment before it was sent to Korea and evaluated pilot performance to ensure their readiness for war. He never saw the war firsthand, but his role was essential to the United States military efforts in Korea.

Mr. Nance then shared his experiences as a pilot in the Air Force in Korea from February to December of 1951. During this time, he flew 100 missions. During the roundtable discussion, instead of talking about his accomplishments in the war, he spent his time encouraging us to take responsibility for our lives and have no regrets. He even recited a little poem. Mr. Nance is a true American patriot, and we will discuss him more later in this post.

Finally, Mr. Tremblay shared about his time in Korea. He was commissioned as an officer in the Air Force in 1950, and, in Korea, he was based out of Seoul City Air Base. He specialized in missions of psychological warfare. For instance, he flew a C-47 dropping propaganda leaflets into North Korea.  He flew a total of 75 missions in two months. Other missions included dropping supplies to soldiers and dropping flares to help illuminate battlefields during night warfare. Mr. Tremblay knew the hills of Korea like the back of his hand and was a vital member of the Air Force during the Korean War.

Our first stop of the day was a memorial to the first UN battle in Korea, the Battle of Osan. This battle occurred on July 5, 1950, just ten days after the North Koreans invaded South Korea. Task Force Smith of the 24th Division, who were stationed in Japan, met the North Koreans at Osan. However, the UN troops were incredibly ill-prepared. The North overtook the UN troops with T34 tanks and 105 mm cannons. Task Force Smith retreated after 3 hours of intense fighting with heavy casualties, This battle sent a message that the UN forces were now permanently involved in the war, regardless of the outcome of this particular battle. 

Our second and final stop of the day was at Dabudong War Memorial Museum. Soldiers of the ROK/US Alliance defended this historical site during the Korean War with many making the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the Korean Peninsula and its people.  This museum was opened on November 30, 1981 by the Ministry of National Defense to serve as a reminder of the sacrifice given by many and to educate the next generation about the tragedy of the Korean War.

This week, we had the honor to travel and explore Korea with Mr. Joe Nance. As mentioned above, he was in the Air Force and was stationed at a little town south of Incheon, called Pyeongtaek. He flew air to ground missions in an AT-6 plane. One of the highlights of this return to Korea for Mr. Nance is seeing the transformation of South Korea. When he left at the end of 1951, the country was absolutely devastated. He doesn't remember one building left standing. However, today the country has a booming economy, with a city rivaling New York City. High rises cover the country and the people are thriving. They have made a full recovery from the war and Mr. Nance feels honored to have been a part of making South Korea a better place for future generations. One of our favorite moments in South Korea is watching as the South Korean soldiers salute our veterans as they pass. What an honor to be accompanying men such as these...true American Patriots. 

Although our day consisted of traveling, we had the opportunity to learn through the discussions with our veterans and the museums that we had the privilege to visit. We arrived safe and sound at Busan, which is the second largest city in Korea with the largest port. We will be staying one night and visiting historical sites in this area in the morning before heading back to Seoul. 

It's been an incredible journey so far, and we cannot believe the trip is over halfway done. We can't wait to see what else is in store for us and our veterans as we continue to explore.

'Til next time,

Jed and Haylee