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USFK Celebrates Veterans Day for 1st Time at Camp Humphreys

 Veteran Leon Ellison lays flowers during a Veterans Day ceremony at Camp Humphreys, South Korea on Saturday, Nov. 11. (Stars and Stripes photo/Marcus Fichtl)
Veteran Leon Ellison lays flowers during a Veterans Day ceremony at Camp Humphreys, South Korea on Saturday, Nov. 11. (Stars and Stripes photo/Marcus Fichtl)

CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea -- U.S. Forces Korea celebrated Veterans Day for the first time on a newly expanded base that is now home to the 8th Army.

Military leaders, veterans and Boy and Girl Scouts took turns placing a wreath and flowers at a memorial behind the new 8th Army headquarters at Camp Humphreys. An honor guard fired a 21-gun salute as taps was played.

"Today marks the first Veterans Day we will be commemorating at the 8th Army Headquarters [at Humphreys]," said U.S. Forces commander Gen. Vincent Brooks.

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Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day to signify the end of World War I. On May 26, 1954, less than a year after the Korean War also ended with an armistice, the day was made a national holiday to celebrate all veterans. It took on its modern name six days later, on June 1.

The 8th Army headquarters moved from Yongsan to Humphreys, 40 miles to the south, in July. Brooks said the 8th Army War Memorial, dedicated to those killed in the 1950-53 Korean War, had been disassembled "stone by stone" to be transferred from its original home at Yongsan Garrison in Seoul. More than 36,000 U.S. service members died in the Korea War.

Humphreys has been expanded as part of a much-delayed relocation of the bulk of U.S. forces to regional hubs south of the capital.

Ted Heffernan, an official with the South Korean chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said he was honored to represent one of the sponsors of the first Veterans Day ceremony at the camp.

"I've been here for years," said the 71-year-old from Munson, Mass. "It's a big deal because we're finally getting to see the results of 10 years of work." Heffernan served in the military from 1968 to 2001, with stints in South Korea.

Michael Dunderdale, 14, the son of two soldiers from Fort Campbell, Ky., laid flowers with his Boy Scout troop.

"I'm honoring the debts of the veterans," he said.

Brooks recalled his first Veterans Day in combat when he stood in a field chapel honoring three soldiers who had been killed in Baghdad two days earlier.

"We need not be happy about the losses of life nor about the very nature of wars that make veterans who they are," he said. "Yet we can be happy that our life goes on because of these things, and because someone was willing to step forth to answer the call of their nation in a time of need."

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