Courtenay-Alberni MP Johns visits Korea as part of Canadian delegation

Presentations to acknowledge 65th anniversary of Korean War cessation

Submitted by Gord Johns

Special to Black Press

An inscription etched on the monument to Korean War veterans in Washington D.C. honours those who “answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met.”

Although these words moved me to travel to the Korean peninsula last month as part of a delegation of Canadian veterans and parliamentarians, I quickly learned that our own Korean war veterans are honoured far beyond our shores.

We were there to remember the more than 26,000 Canadians who served and the 516 brave souls who were lost in the Korean war from 1951-1953. It is now 65 years since the cessation of hostilities, but the Korean people have not forgotten the Canadians who bravely fought under the flag of the United Nations to resist the invasion of their country.

From our arrival at the airport in Seoul to the ceremonies, banquets and cultural presentations, the deep gratitude of the Korean people for the sacrifices of our veterans was evident in their smiles, their cheers and the warmth of their welcome.

As we looked out from an observation post, a Korean army colonel told us that his country has held Hill 355 since it was liberated by our troops almost seven decades ago. “If Canada is ever in need, we will be there for you in the same way you were here for us,” he said.

I have never been prouder to be a Canadian than at that moment.

I was pleased to make this historic trip in the company of two Comox Valley Korean war veterans, Peter Seiersen and Grant Nichols. They are members of the Korea War Veterans Association of Canada, which organizes a return visit to Korea for its members each year.

Peter joined the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry at the age of 17 in 1948 and shipped out three years later, landing in Japan and travelling by train to Korea. His first memory is of the extreme poverty of the Korean people and his heart went immediately to the mothers and children who were living in desperate conditions.

This year, 13 veterans and family members were joined by the Minister of Veterans Affairs, my fellow co-chair of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs and myself and various Canadian government officials.

The returning veterans were amazed and proud both of the great progress of the South Korean people and of their own important role in making a better future for the generations that have followed.

I urge Canadians to pause this month to remember the contribution of our Korean war veterans, their sacrifice and their humility in defence of a country they did not know and a people they had not met.

MP Gord Johns (Courtenay-Alberni) is the NDP Critic for Veterans Affairs and Vice-Chair of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs. The Korean Armistice Agreement was signed on July 27, 1953, to “ensure a complete cessation of hostilities and of all acts of armed force in Korea until a final peaceful settlement is achieved.”