Korean War veteran Warren Byrnell at the new stone by the cenotaph in Pitt Meadows.

Korean memorial stone added to Pitt cenotaph

“They are still appreciative of what we did for their country.”

At one time, the Korean War was labelled a UN police action, often referred to as the Korean Conflict, and returning soldiers did not receive the same level of respect as those who came back from the Second World War in the 1940s, said Pitt Meadows Korean War veteran Warren Byrnell.

Historians labelled it the Forgotten War.

“Tell that to the families of the 516 who never came home,” said Byrnell.

He recalls a time, not long after the war ended in 1953, when Korean War veterans were not accepted for Legion membership in Canada.

The South Korean people have always recognized the sacrifice of Canadians, said Byrnell, who has three times travelled back to the land where he fought as a young man, and heard their thanks in person.

The government of North Korea provides a tangible reminder that the Korean War was truly a fight for freedom.

In 2013, he toured the Demilitarized Zone between north and south, and the national memorial with his daughter, Karen Light. In July, he and son Bruce went there for a week-long trip, sponsored by a Korean Presbyterian Church, and toured military bases.

“They are still appreciative of what we did for their country,” he said.

Byrnell said the trips back to Korea are emotional experiences for him.

“They have a very high regard for Canadians. They say, ‘You saved our country,’ and they hugged us and hugged us.’”

And after almost 40 years, official recognition came back home.

In 1991, the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal for Korea was created to recognize those members of the armed forces who volunteered.

In 2013, the federal government declared July 27 as Korean War Veterans Day. That year was also named the Year of the Korean War Veteran.

Byrnell is one of the members of the Korean War Veterans Association that still meets on the first Wednesday of every month, at noon at the Maple Ridge branch of the Royal Canadian Legion.

“It’s a short meeting and a long lunch,” he said.

It is one of 45 such groups across Canada, and it still has a comparatively healthy membership of about 26 men who served in Korea.

Three live in Pitt Meadows, five in Maple Ridge, and others in nearby communities.

Byrnell said they came together when the government issued the service medal.

“It’s about comradeship,” said Byrnelll. “Sometimes they talk about things during the war, but mainly it’s the comradeship.”

An order of business recently has been a new memorial for the cenotaph in Pitt Meadows, and it came to fruition in time for Nov. 11.

“We wanted a permanent marker where it wouldn’t be damaged,” he said.

It is a simple stone that says “Korea 1950-53” and “Lest We Forget,” with maple leaf flags waving.

Senator Yonah Martin, Korean by birth, was on hand for the dedication ceremony last month.

Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker said he was honoured to be included in the ceremony, and appreciates the new marker.

“It stands out very nicely. It’s a great addition to our cenotaph.”

 

• Remembrance Day ceremonies will be hold Nov. 11 in downtown Maple Ridge and by city hall in Pitt Meadows, as well as in Whonnock.

Maple Ridge

Maple Ridge will gather in somber silence for its annual Remembrance Day ceremonies on Wednesday, Nov. 11.

The observance in Maple Ridge will begin at 10:30 a.m., with a parade from the Royal Canadian Legion building, located at 224th Street and Brown Avenue, to the cenotaph in Memorial Peace Park.

The park’s name derives from its role as the home for the memorials to the men and women who have served the armed forces both in war and in peace. The cenotaph was originally located near the Maple Ridge Cemetery.

The march includes veterans, RCMP officers, the Maple Ridge Fire Department, Corrections Services, cadets and scouting organizations.

At 11 a.m., a moment of silence will be observed before the laying of wreaths. The event will end between 11:30 and noon.

There will be road closures from 10 a.m. to noon for the event, and 224th  Street will be closed from Brown to 119th avenues.

Maple Ridge is the largest legion branch in B.C. with almost 2,100 members and always provides a good turnout for the ceremonies.

Last year, the Maple Ridge Branch raised more than $79,000 for its poppy campaign.

Pitt Meadows: The Pitt Meadows ceremony will begin at 10:30 a.m. with the Remembrance Day Parade in Spirit Square, near Pitt Meadows city hall. There will be a procession to the cenotaph, speeches and prayers, playing of The Last Post, laying of wreaths, and two-minutes’ silence at 11 a.m.

The Pitt Meadows cenotaph is located at 12007 Harris Rd.

Whonnock: The Whonnock Community Association is holding a wreath laying ceremony at the Whonnock Lake Centre at 11 a.m.

Phil Johnson, an organizer of the event, said he hopes members of the community come by and show their support.

“The freedoms we have today are because of what our veterans fought for,” said Johnson. “But it’s not just the past we commemorate. It’s also about those over fighting the wars going on right now.”

He said that as he watched the swearing in of the Canada’s new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, he was reminded of what makes Canada such a great country.

“You look around the world and there’s not a lot of countries that have the democratic freedoms we do,” said Johnson. “We owe all of that to our veterans and we need to remember that.”

Part of ceremonies at the Whonnock Centre will include displays from the First and Second World, as well as some comics Johnson’s grandfather published while he was the editor of The Campaigner, a magazine in Vancouver.

All members of the community are welcome to attend and refreshments will be served.

 

 

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