BANGOR – As a rule, Korean War veterans aren’t joiners. Fewer than 20 percent belong to any kind of veterans group.
But 10 years ago this month, some 2,000 people turned out for the dedication of a project that drew veterans and the community together – the Maine Korean War Memorial at Mount Hope Cemetery.
The 195th Army Band played the Navy Hymn as the drape pulled away from the pagoda-style monument, revealing the black granite memorial engraved with the names of 233 Mainers who died in Korea.
At 10 a.m. Wednesday, July 27, Burton-Goode-Sargent Chapter No. 1, Korean War Veterans, will unveil a plaque commissioned by the Legislature that will hang in the Hall of Flags in the state Capitol to honor Maine veterans of the Korean War.
The timing of the ceremony is significant, explained Ted Robinson of Exeter, president of Burton-Goode-Sargent Chapter, because it is the hour that the truce was signed in Panmunjom on July 27, 1953.
“The director of the Bureau of Veterans Services, Peter Ogden, will make the presentation,” said Ed Davis of Orland, chapter coordinator for the ceremony.
The bronze plaque also will be part of ceremonies conducted by the Claire Goodblood Chapter No. 2 before being returned to Augusta to be placed in the Capitol.
It will be one more step in making sure Korea is no longer “the Forgotten War.”
A decade ago, veterans and friends held sales, swept floors at Burger King, gave talks and promoted the concept of the memorial as “One More Hill.” A total of $55,000 was raised for the marker built by Provost Monuments in Benton.
Carol and Leslie Gilbert of Orland picked up bottles and cans by the side of the road for the fund. When the group purchased an automobile for a fundraiser, “Leslie made it his ambition to sell that car,” said McCann. As for the memorial, “The job is done. That’s the key.”
“All we wanted to do is put a memorial up for those guys who never came back,” said Ken Buckley of Bangor, a Marine in Korea. “It was a team effort.”
Along the way, Burton-Goode-Sargent Chapter became the first of four chapters of the Maine Korean War veterans. The chapter name honors the memory of three whose names are on the wall – George Burton of Orono, who was captured by the Chinese and is presumed dead; Allen Goode of Bucksport, who is Missing in Action and presumed dead; and Harry Sargent of Hampden, who was killed on Pork Chop Hill.
The chapter also will hold a 10th anniversary ceremony of the dedication of the memorial at 10 a.m. Friday, July 29, at Mount Hope Cemetery.
In recent years, 12 names have been added to the monument as research revealed information on additional Mainers who died in Korea, bringing the total to 245.
Visitors to the cemetery often stop to reflect on the engraved names and also to study the Remembrance Walkway of stones purchased to honor individual veterans or those serving from a particular town.
One of the larger stones honors the service of three generations of men named Marion A. Ham. The second of the three, “Bud” Ham of Bangor, is a Korean War veteran who attended the 1995 dedication and visits the memorial with his wife, Lois.
“It was three wars,” Ham explained recently. “My dad was in World War I, and [my son] Marty was in Desert Storm.
“We go over every once in a while and take a look at it and see the new stones in the walkway,” he said.
“There are more than 600 stones,” Davis said, “and there’s room for about 100 more. We’d like to have it completely paved. All the money goes into perpetual care” for the memorial.
Stones for the walkway continue to be available for purchase, Robinson said. The small ones, 6 inches by 12 inches, with room for 17 letters and spaces on each of three lines, are $125. A marker double the size of the small one, with up to 25 letters on seven lines, costs $200. Applications for the stone are available in the cemetery superintendent’s office.
Mount Hope Cemetery donated the site for the monument. Superintendent Stephen Burrill is an Air Force veteran.
“The Maine Air National Guard put in the foundation and came back and put in the flagpoles. You really can’t thank them enough,” Buckley said. “The flags [of each nation participating in the war] are one of the most important things we have.”
The Korean American Friendship Association was on hand for the 1995 dedication, and Koreans continue to show their appreciation.
McCann and Buckley were among hundreds of Americans who returned to Korea two years ago at the invitation of the Korean government.
“We landed at Inchon, just like when I first went there,” McCann said.
In a Seoul museum, they found a listing of their comrades killed in the war, state by state, on brass plaques.
What used to be dirt roads are now highways, but the visit certainly brought back memories for McCann.
“In 1953, the Korean children looked so forlorn and sad,” he said. “This time, here goes a classroom of children with their teacher – all happy. That’s the feature I loved the most, when we saw what we did.”