Therese Park

Veterans Day Ceremony at Korean War Veterans Memorial on Nov. 11, 2011

Thomas Jefferson once said, “The tree of liberty must be watered with the blood of patriots.”

As I waited with about 120 people on Friday morning, Veterans’ Day, for the ceremony to begin at the Korean War Veterans Memorial at 119th and Lowell in Overland Park, I couldn’t believe that five years has passed since the dedication of this solemn monument. That day, Sept. 30, 2006, there had been no space on this ground as 1,000 people attended the ceremony, which began with two national anthems: the South Korean anthem sung by the Kansas City Korean Choir and the American anthem performed by the Greater Kansas City American Legion Band. Such dignitaries as former Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Richard B. Meyers, South Korean Consul Wook Kim from Chicago and U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore gave speeches.

The crowd on Friday was much smaller, but gathered for an equally important cause: to remember those who never returned from war to their beloved home state of Kansas. At 10 a.m., Tom Stevens, the sixth president of the 11-year-old Korean War Veterans Association Chapter #181, welcomed everyone bundled in winter coats and shivering against the cold breeze.

The keynote speaker, retired Maj. Gen. Fred D. Robinson Jr., was complimentary toward the veterans’ sacrifices in Korea six decades earlier. “I have admiration for all Korean veterans who fought in what was first known as the Korean ‘conflict’ then changed to a ‘war’ weeks later… Your strength and resilience set the new standards for today’s U.S. military. South Korea is an amazing country today.”

I, Korean, wanted to shout, “I’m their witness, General, during the war as well as last few years, while they “marched” together to bring the Memorial here, in Overland Park, to honor their fallen comrades. I was only 9 years old when the North Koreans stole everything from us — books, playground and classrooms, including our dreams, but the U.S. soldiers gave us reasons to hope for a better day. Besides fighting, they also fed beggars with their military rations and gave us kids the sweet taste of life — Hershey’s bars, Juicy Fruit, and M&Ms.”

It was late June 2004 when I was introduced at a Korean-American Ladies Foundation fund-raising luncheon to the veterans’ goal to build a memorial for 415 fallen Kansans. That day, Jack Krumme, the president at the time, announced that the association had $20,000 in the memorial fund. He said that in the next few years, we would be looking at the beautiful memorial with red granite walls bearing the names of those who fought in the war as well as those who supported the cause. It turned out we didn’t have to wait a few years.

Tom Stevens of the foundation explained in a recent conversation, “The Memorial is the result of the teamwork of the community as a whole. More than a hundred organizations and countless individuals sent contributions after the City Council of Overland Park approved our proposal to construct the memorial in June 2003.”

Stevens played multiple roles in making the veterans’ dream a reality. Besides serving as the first vice-president and the treasurer of the association, he was also the secretary of the 11-member memorial committee.

The ground-breaking ceremony was on Aug. 23, 2003. A few month later, at the Association's monthly meeting at Tomahawk Community Center, they had an unexpected visitor--the representative of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. "He was a pleasant-looking fellow," Stevens remembered. "He said apologetically that the Kauffman Foundation couldn’t grant the $5,000 we asked for because they give priorities to schools, libraries and performing arts communities. He then said, ‘The only thing we can do is to give you $45,000 more than you asked for: the $50,000 Leadership Award!’ We were speechless!”
A year later, in November 2004, another surprise came, this time from Washington. In response to proposals from U.S. Senators Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts and U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore, the Bush administration awarded the association $374,280 toward the construction of the memorial. This giant gift boosted the veterans’ team spirit beyond words.

“The grant was administered by HUD (the U.S. Department of Housing Urban Development) in Washington,” Stevens said. “I read the necessary documents and talked to many people on the phone to find out how to draw down the funds, and then faxed the required papers to the appropriate people. More phone calls later, I’d learn that the documents I sent were lost in the pile of papers on the other end. It was a very slow, complicated procedure for an inexperienced person like me.”

Byron Loudon, a former Overland Park councilman and attorney, helped obtain 501(c)(3) status without charging a fee, and in May 2006, construction began. Four months later, on a beautiful autumn day, the memorial was dedicated on the solemn ground.

At the Korean War Veterans Memorial across the state line in Kansas City, vandals damaged concrete and a plaque.

“It’s most unfortunate,” Stevens said. “But it is less likely to happen here at our memorial. Shortly after the monument was erected, the Overland Park Police Department moved in next door, and their surveillance cameras are watching it day and night. The people at the city of Overland Park have been loyal to us, putting up signs for visitors, even providing a parking space for them, and meticulously maintaining the site as well. The loving attention we’ve been receiving from all areas of people and organizations is unbelievable.”

The inscription on the granite wall at the Memorial reads “FREEDOM IS NOT FREE!” Don’t we all have to pay a high price for such a precious gift as freedom?


Thomas Jefferson said, "The Tree of Liberty must be watered with the blood of patriots."

The Kansas City Star
"Heartland Honor Flight is all about showing our gratitude to those who fought for our country's freedom," the president John Doole says.
During the Korean War, long segregation in the U.S. military ended.
"To win, you must know your enemy," wrote Chinese Ancient General Sun-Tzu (544-496 B.C.)
...their beloved country in whose honor they defended my helpless homeland in the Far East six decades ago has become my own beloved motherland.
To the parishioners at Curé of Ars Catholic Church in Leawood, their pastor is a healer, confessor, teacher and compassionate friend who rejoices with them at happy times and grieves with them at times of loss and injury.
“The truth about Jesus Christ reached Korean soil in 1784," Pope John Paul II said during the canonization of 103 Korean Martyrs in 1984. In a most marvelous way, divine grace moved your ancestors first to an intellectual quest for the truth of God’s word and then to a living faith in the risen Christ..."
During the trip to Korea together, our mother-daughter roles were reversed. My daughter seemed to think that I needed her care, not the other way around.
The Kansas City Philharmonic enriched the lives of many during its 49 years.
Martin Luther King Jr.'s Messages on Violence
A Korean Grandma and her American Grandkids
Average people made the world we live in today.
Albert Schweitzer said, “You must give some time to your fellow man. Even if it’s a little thing…for which you get no pay but the privilege of doing it.”
Pilgrims are everywhere here on the square of the Basilica of Our Lady, some are walking on their knees and some are kneeling at the glass-walled Chapel of Apparition where the Blessed Virgin appeared to three shepherd children in 1917.
Woodcarvers find fun, therapy and friendship
Behind a tough cookie, there's a culture that nourished her soul
Not biting is a sign of appreciation
After Tucsan shooting rampage
Without a healthy brain, one cannot live a healthy life
Thomas Jefferson once said, “The tree of liberty must be watered with the blood of patriots.”
Gen. Douglas MacArthur said, "In War, there is no substitute for victory."
Gratitude is not only the greatest of all virtues but the parent of all others.
Our home became a church when homeless priests and nuns moved in with us.
Victor Hugo's view of his old age
Forgetfulness comes with aging
Learning is for all ages.
Mixture of feelings about seeing Amercans' departure from my country Korea
Foreigner's view of today's China
The "Wake up call" isn't only for Chinese parents but for all American parents.
The Korean War isn't "Forgotten"
I once had compassion for all caged birds. But since I became a bird-owner, my opinion about them has changed.
South Korea today gives thanks to all American troops who fought to preserve its peace at the cost of their lives.
Pope John Paul II was the first pope to visit South Korea in 1984--to canonize 103 Korean martyrs
The seeds of the Church is the blood of the martyrs.
Column/ Kansas City Star
Father Emil Kapaun: recipient of Medal or Honor 2013
The U.S. government purchased Alaska in 1867 for only $7.2 million dollars from Russia, that includes 500 million acres of land with 3 million streams full of fish and otters, and tall snow-capped mountains providing shelter for bears, moose, mountain sheep and more.
The Best Times
He liberated music from a cloistered form set by earlier composers...
The racial discrimination the white American inflicted upon their black neighbors.
Magazine Article
Traditional Chinese medical doctors have been using bird-nests for centuries to treat respiratory ailments such as asthma and bronchitis, to rejuvenate skin, and to boost energy for both young and old.
It takes courage to deal with the human condition called "aging."
Feature article
Inchon Landing was one of the most successful operations in modern military history.
Magazine Articles
Korean War Prisoner-of War Story