Every year, for the past 15 years, a group of Korean War Veterans from the U.S. Army’s 45th Infantry Division gather for a reunion.
“This year it will be the second week of October,” said 82-year-old Obert Parsons of Foster.
Parsons said his division served on the front lines of the 38th parallel.
“I was at the 38th parallel with trenches all the way across it,” he said. “We fought many battles and the hills we fought at were named.”
Parsons said names like White Horse Hill, Pork Chop Hill, Jane Russell Hill and Heartbreak Ridge were all places on the front lines of the Korean War.
The Korean War, which started on June 25, 1950 and last until July 27, 1953, was a war between the Republic of Korea (supported primarily by the United States of America, with contributions from allied nations under the aegis of the United Nations) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (supported by the People’s Republic of China, with military and material aid from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics).
The Korean War was primarily the result of the political division of Korea by an agreement of the victorious Allies at the conclusion of the Pacific War at the end of World War II.
The Korean Peninsula was ruled by the Empire of Japan from 1910 until the end of World War II. Following the surrender of the Empire of Japan in September 1945, American administrators divided the peninsula along the 38th parallel, with U.S. military forces occupying the southern half and Soviet military forces occupying the northern half.
Parson says that every Independence Day his vivid memory takes him back to July 10, 1952.
“Our company was given a mission to assault a hill and try to capture a prisoner to gather information,” he recalled. “I couldn’t go because I had just had a tooth pulled and my right eye swelled shut. In two hours we lost one-third of the company. There were eight men killed and 42 wounded out of 150 men. I will never forget it.”
Parson still stays in contact with as many of his Army buddies as he can throughout the year.
“We all look forward to the reunion,” he said.
It all began 15 years ago when the soldier that drove the supply truck got on the Internet to find as many surviving war veterans from his unit as he could find.
“He is the one that started this reunion,” Parsons said.
Last year, 38 men came to the reunion. There ages range from 78 to 87.
“This reunion has been hosted all over the country,” Parsons said.
The reunions have taken place in West Virginia, Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Maryland, Oklahoma, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.
Parsons says he makes freezer jellies and jams to take as part of fundraising events for the reunion.
“We are going to keep it going as long as we can,” he said. “I have an entire list of the men in the 45th Division and we are trying to find as many as we can to come to the reunion.”
Parsons said a few years ago, an Army buddy sent him a newspaper clipping from a Tokyo, Japan newspaper that had a map of the 38th parallel.
“It meant so much to me to get this,” he said.
Parsons numbered and dated the places he was at during the war.
“I took it to the reunion and the guys all made copies of it,” he said. “It brought back many memories.”
In March, 1953, Parsons’ time in the military ended and he came back home to Boone County, West Virginia.
“After leaving Korea, we had no idea if we would ever see each other again, so this reunion means so much to all of us,” Parsons said. “It’s like seeing family.”