LIMA — Jonathan Nichols said ticker tape parades awaited Word War I and World War II veterans when they returned to the United States.
He also said no such parades awaited Korean War and Vietnam War veterans when they returned home.
While it took Americans time to getting around to truly honoring Korean War vets, Nichols and his grandfather, Jim Walther, a Korean War veteran, experienced a thankful nation firsthand in a return trip to South Korea in the revisit program hosted by the South Korean government.
“They are truly appreciative,” Walther said. “A lot of people approached us and thanked us for our service. It was a success because we stopped communism in South Korea.”
The two discussed their visit Monday at the Lima Rehab & Nursing Center. Nichols noted some of the striking differences between South Korea and the United States. He said that street sweepers are running constantly and no stain is left uncleaned.
“If you drive into a gas station and oil drips out of a vehicle, there is an attendant coming out and cleaning it up,” Nichols said.
Nichols said South Korean businesses also operate much differently. For example, instead of having a go to store like Menard’s or Lowe’s, complete streets are dedicated to particular items. One street will contain shops that all sell light fixtures and then you travel down a couple of blocks to find a street with plumbing items.
“You take a day off of work to make home improvements,” Nichols said. “We saw toilets lined up at one place like used cars.”
Nichols gave a brief slide presentation with plenty of pictures from the trip. Walthers said he was amazed to find a somewhat prosperous country that had completely changed since he had been there. When he left, the country had been completely decimated by the war.
The tour included a visit to the Joint Security Area in the Demilitarized Zone. The blue building sits at the former location of a Korean village destroyed in the war and is is the only portion of the DMZ where South and North Korean forces stand face-to-face. It is often called the Truce Village. The JSA is used by the two Koreas for diplomatic engagements.
Nichols said the village literally sits right in the border between the two countries. If you were on one side of the room, you were in North Korea, on the other side of the room, you were in South Korea.
The six-day trip closed out with a ceremony where all the visiting American and Turkish soldiers were awarded the Freedom Medal by a general of the South Korean Army.
“I was glad I had a chance to go back becuase it was a chance to see how truly appreciative they are,” Walthers said.
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