On Monday, U.S. Army veterans Philip Jackson and Kirt Robins, both 85, walked toward a towering memorial building at the heart of Seoul’s National Cemetery. Flanked by South Korean soldiers in ceremonial uniform, the two longtime friends were part of a delegation of about 50 American veterans who had traveled to the South Korean capital on a government-subsidized program to honor foreign troops who served during the Korean War.
“We’re both widowers, our wives both died of Alzheimer’s, so, it’s something to do,” said Robins, who has known Jackson since their childhoods in southern Utah.
South Korea’s Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs has run such programs for Korean War veterans from 21 U.N. allied nations since 1975. But Jackson and Robins’ late-June trip coincides with an unprecedented, if cautious, hope for peace on the peninsula, which has remained technically at war since an armistice was signed in July 1953, a few months before they began their service here. It also comes as the relatives of soldiers who went missing more than 60 years ago anxiously await the possibility of their loved ones’ remains being returned, following a pledge made by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to U.S. President Donald Trump when the pair met in Singapore on June 12.
United States Forces Korea (USFK) this weekend moved scores of wooden caskets to the inter-Korean border in the hopes of receiving the remains of about 200 soldiers who died in the 1950-53 war. Following Trump’s false claim last week