Two-dozen Illinois Korean War veterans have received medals from the South Korean government in recognition of their service.
The belated Republic of Korea (ROK) War Service Medals, also known as Korean War Service Medals, were presented during a Nov. 10 ceremony at an Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) home in Manteno.
The medals signify a thank-you “for going over there and putting my life on the line,” 84-year-old Ernie Shannon, a U.S. Air Force staff sergeant during the conflict and one of the 24 who received the recent recognition, said. “Them’s good people, I’ll tell you what, and we went over there and fought for them.”
Then again, Shannon, who joined the military directly out of high school, said he would have dutifully gone wherever he was needed.
“I went over there because my government wanted me to go over there, and I went to Korea and I went to Vietnam and if I had been born, like, in (1926), I coulda’ went to the Second World War, and I would have gladly, gladly went, ’cause like I say, I love this country,” Shannon said.
Shannon and many of his fellow Korean War veterans in Illinois and across the nation waited for the medals so long because, even though South Korea began presenting the medals to members of the U.S. military in the early 1950s, the awards were not authorized to be worn on U.S. military uniforms until years later, said Kurt Schierholz, the IDVA veterans service officer credited with tracking down the recipients at Manteno, where he works.
Schierholz said that some time ago, he noticed some Korean War vets sported the ROK medals while others didn’t. Then, with some added investigative work, he realized the after-the-fact change in uniform policy left behind many of those who deserved the service medals.
Schierholz was able to correct the oversight in Manteno with a few phone calls, along with a little pencil-pushing and event planning.
“Every veteran is proud of their service to their nation,” Schierholz said. “You know, we love our country, and when you have a chance to receive a medal, whether it’s during the time of your service or years later, it shows that we are appreciated for what we did.”
–Illinois News Network