By Abby Cambiano
June 14, 2017
KANSAS CITY, Missouri – The Missouri Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington Square Park was the backdrop for the fifth annual National Flag Day flag retirement ceremony. A 48-star flag was retired by the Missouri Korean War Veterans Memorial Flag Retirement Team and American Legion Post 189 on Wednesday, June 14.
“Our flag is the most recognized flag in the world, no question,” Bob Kalkofen, vice chair of the memorial’s board, said. “Those that died, those that became veterans that are recognized today, and our active duty personnel still in harm’s way deserve the very best emblem that we can put forward. When that flag you fly becomes too torn, too faded, and is unserviceable, replace it with a new fitting emblem for the land that you love. These people deserve it.”
This particular flag was chosen for retirement because the American flag had only 48 stars during the Korean War. The ceremony was a celebration of the Army’s birthday and Flag Day and in memorial of those who fought in the Korean War and all wars. The ceremony is “a time to reflect on the gift of freedom given to us by the service of veterans of all branches of the armed forces,” according to the board of the memorial.
The American Legion Band of Greater Kansas City performed the “Medley of the Armed Forces,” as well as the “National Anthem,” “You’re a Grand Old Flag” and more familiar patriotic songs, accompanied by the Lee’s Summit Methodist Men of Note. The Kansas City Recruiting Battalion presented the colors.
“It really teaches proper flag etiquette and (brings) to the attention of the community the statues and memorials we have thanks to concerned citizens that made it happen,” Carol Turner, wife of board treasurer Dan Turner, said. “I think that’s an important part of democracy.”
Col. Walton H. “Buck” Walker II, retired from the U.S. Army, was the keynote speaker. Walker’s father and grandfather served in Korea. Born in Japan, Walker said he grew up believing God and America were inseparable.
“As a young boy on that Army post I learned to stop when I heard the sound of the bugle call retreat and to stand at attention when the bugle sounded to the colors as the American flag was lowered at 5 p.m.,” Walker said. “Since then, the American flag has come to mean, in one way or another, a very significant part of my life. Something which I have only come to fully realize and appreciate as I prepared these remarks and reflected on what the American flag means to me, and what it meant to me as I was growing up.”
Walker was awarded the Legion of Merit, a Master Parachutist badge, the Ranger Tab, and a Special Forces Green Beret throughout his time in the Army.
“The cross is a symbol of our hope in God… and just so is the American flag a symbol of hope in our nation’s promise to every citizen of those freedoms that are stated in our constitution.”
The colors of the flag are representative, red meaning valor and hardiness, white being purity and innocence, and blue representing vigilance, perseverance and justice. The other flags that were turned in by the public will be retired in a separate location. The event was assisted by Boy Scout Troop 123 in collecting flags, directing traffic and helping veterans.
Additionally, the ceremony included a dedication of granite memorial pavers and Patriot Award presentations. Many veterans and families of veterans, as well as Korean citizens, were in attendance for the celebration and ceremony.
The Missouri Korean War Memorial will soon have a new addition, a sculpture created by John Lajba depicting an American soldier, a Korean grandfather and his grandson. The memorial was once just a dream of Cpl. James Shults, retired U.S. Marine, that was dedicated on September 28, 2011, the anniversary of the UN forces recapturing Seoul in 1950.
“It’s really a thought about human survival and the gift of freedom that America has given to so many people of the world,” Lajba said. “I wanted to show the struggle that the Korean people had at the time. They really had no country; they perhaps had no trust, and really what a great society they became, how they survived by their thoughts of a future, thoughts of their families and the thoughts of the trust they began to develop with America and the American soldiers.”
The memorial’s supporters are asking for donations to speed up this process. As the Korean War ended 64 years ago, Debra Shultz, chair of the board, noted that Korean War veterans are being lost at an alarming rate. Donations can be made at mokoreanwarmemorial.org.