Five U.S. veterans of the Korean War (1950-1953) arrived in Korea on Wednesday to attend the graduation ceremony the following day of a high school built here by their unit during the Korean War, the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs said.
Former soldiers John Curtis, Tony Kloekl, Clarence Meyer, Marshall Taggart and Marvin Jackson fought in the U.S. Army 40th Infantry Division.
They will be presented with a plaque of appreciation from the ministry during the graduation ceremony.
|This undated photo released by the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs shows Gen. Joseph Cleland (left), commander of then U.S. Army 40th Infantry Division, attending a graduation ceremony at Kaiser Middle and High School, now Gapyong High School, during the Korean War. (Yonhap News)|
The ties between the school and the U.S. division date back about 60 years.
Gapyong High School in Gapyeong, Gyeonggi Province, 55 kilometers northeast of Seoul, was established in 1952 by 40th Infantry Division soldiers stationed in March of that year to fend against North Korean troops.
The division’s Commanding Gen. Joseph P. Cleland was impressed at the sight of about 150 Koreans studying hard in tents near battlefields with the air filled with artillery booms. He then decided to build a school for them.
About 15,000 soldiers chipped in $2 apiece, and the division’s engineering units constructed the school.
Residents and students joined them in completing the structure with 10 classrooms and one auditorium, while families of the division soldiers sent stationery and books from the U.S.
Many soldiers argued to name it after their commander, but Gen. Cleland decided to name it Kaiser Middle High School after Sergeant First Class Kenneth Kaiser, the first soldier of the 40th Infantry Division to be killed in action. Kaiser, the youngest son of five brothers from California, died in battle 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, then Gaisa High School and is currently Gapyong High School.
The school has a stone monument erected on campus in honor of the soldiers of the U.S. 40th Infantry Division.
The retired Cleland revisited the school in 1987 to donate part of his retirement pension. The school used the fund to give scholarships from 1990. After Cleland’s death in 1997, his wife carried on with the donation, and following her death, the current soldiers of the 40th division continued with the donations.
Since 2010, Korean War veterans of the division have joined them in visiting the school and adding to the scholarship fund.
The five veterans will visit the truce village of Panmunjom on Friday and return home Saturday.
By Chun Sung-woo (email@example.com