It’s not every day someone gets a “Thank you” from a country’s president.
Leroy Rogers got one, and he was happy to not be the only one being thanked.
Rogers received a letter from Lee Myung-bak, the president of the Republic of Korea. In it, the president expresses his gratitude to Rogers and every other Korean War veteran from the United States who fought to keep South Korea free from Communism. The correspondence is in honor of the anniversary of the Korean War’s end, which lasted from 1950 to 1953.
Rogers, who is organizing a reunion of Korean War veterans set for July 31, said when the war started, he was like the other young men who were fighting the war.
“Nobody knew where the Korean Peninsula was. We don’t even pronounce Korea the same way, and we were fighting three different United Nation countries,” he said. “We were just scared to death. We didn’t know what we were doing.”
Rogers said normal military protocol at the time dictated that if a soldier served nine months in combat, he got to go home. But that rule didn’t always hold true if personnel were needed, he said, and some had to stay longer than their allotted time. Many paid for that extension on the front lines with their lives.
“A lot didn’t get to come home. Nine months of front line duty was supposed to get you home. But they couldn’t spare them, and they kept them on the line, and many got killed after they should have already been home” Rogers said.
Rogers estimated half of the Korean War veterans are dead now but the letter from Myung-bak is very significant. “I was told probably 100,000 people would get that letter. It’s very meaningful to me,” he said.
Rogers said the reunion is set for 6 p.m. on July 31 at the American Legion on Waters Road in Maryville. Rogers said he has gotten more reservations from out-of-town veterans than locally, but he’s hoping more will come in.
One request really meant a lot to him. “One gentleman said, ‘I’m a Vietnam veteran, and I’d like to serve you.’ I thought that was very touching,” he said.
For information about the reunion, call Rogers at 865-982-1144 or 865-356-4404
Text of letter is as follows:
The President of the Republic of Korea
Dated June 1, 2010
Dr. M. Leroy Rogers
This year as we commemorate the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War, we honor your selfless sacrifice in fighting tyranny and aggression. We salute your courage in enduring the unimaginable horrors of war. We pay tribute to your commitment in protecting liberty and freedom.
We Koreans made a promise to build a strong and prosperous country that upholds peace and freedom so that the sacrifices that you made would not have been in vain. We have faithfully kept that promise. Korea today is a vibrant democracy with a robust economy and we are actively promoting peace and stability around the world. Korea transformed itself from a country of receiving aid to one that provides aid to others. We are proud of what we managed to accomplish and we wish to dedicate the achievements to you.
The Korean government has been inviting Korean War veterans every year as part of its Revisit Korea Program since 1975. This year we will be inviting 2,400 Korean War veterans and their families. We Koreans and myself in particular look forward to welcoming you. We hope that you will see what you made possible and hope that your families will feel renewed pride in what you did for us many years ago.
Please accept, once again, our warmest gratitude and deepest respect. You will always remain our true heroes and we assure you that we will continue to do our best to make you proud. On behalf of the Korean people, I would like to say, “Thank You.”
President, Republic of Korea.