Top South Korean Diplomat Thanks Utah Veterans For Sacrifices

Jun 29, 2021, 6:10 PM | Updated: Jun 30, 2021, 11:19 am

SALT LAKE CITY — A top South Korean diplomat visited Salt Lake City to commemorate the Korean War and thank the Utah Veterans who fought to free their country seven decades ago.

The people of South Korea have tremendous appreciation for the sacrifices made by American troops. They still hope to honor every American who served in combat during that war.

The Korean War is often called the “Forgotten War,” but the people of South Korea will never forget what American troops did to free them in 1950.

Seventy-one years ago, the U.S. sent troops to Korea to defend the freedom and democracy of the South Korean people from a communist invasion from the north. Without that help, the Koreans believe they would not have survived to become the 11th largest economy in the world and a vibrant democracy.

“We Koreans are always very much grateful to the U.S. servicemen and women during the Korean War,” Sang Soo Yoon, consul general of South Korea, said at the Korean War Monument in Memory Grove.

Over the last seven years, Korea has presented more than 1,500 Ambassador for Peace Medals to Utah combat veterans, or their surviving relatives, in 13 ceremonies across the state.

Marine Veteran John Cole has been largely responsible for making that happen in Utah, while other states have lagged behind, with many veterans not even knowing that the Koreans want them to have the medal.

For Cole, it’s a matter of honor and duty.

“I’ve got to do something for the Korean War Veterans because they’re always forgotten,” he said. “I need to do something to remember them by.”

He urged veterans who fought in the war, or their families, to contact the Utah Department of Veterans Affairs to fill out the forms to receive the Ambassador for Peace medal from South Korea.

“I felt they were doing me a great favor, and they thought I was doing them a great favor,” Cole said. 

Marine veteran John Cole is working to get every Koren War veteran in Utah an Ambassador for Peace Medal. (KSL TV)

More than 20,000 Utah veterans served in the Korean War. Around 12,000 live in the Beehive State now.

Cole was a platoon leader and endured some of the fiercest fighting and freezing conditions in the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir.

“The 1st Marine Division was completely surrounded, outnumbered by about 20 to 1, and one of the worst winters in history,” Cole said, recounting the brutality of that 17-day battle. “The frostbite never goes away. It and the PTSD always come out at night.”

Despite that, he dedicated himself to helping eligible veterans get the Ambassador for Peace Medal.

“I couldn’t have done it alone, I know that,” he said. “But it’s an honor to me to have done what I’ve done and I still want to do.”

If you or a member of your family is eligible for the medal, get in touch with the Utah Department of Veterans Affairs.

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Top South Korean Diplomat Thanks Utah Veterans For Sacrifices