By Stan Levin
The ROK (Republic of Korea) has had in place a standing invitation for veterans of the Korea War to visit Seoul and be guests of the South Korean government for one week. With the exception of one half the airfare and a fee paid to the arranging agency, all expenses, first class hotel accommodations, meals including banquets, tours, ceremonies, gifts and entertainment are courtesy of the Korean government.
I have been able take advantage of the opportunity two times, once in 2003, during which the sixtieth anniversary of the cease fire was being widely celebrated.
All other experiences aside, an incident at the Seoul airport humbled me and left an indelible stamp in my memory. After being checked in for the return flight I was sitting in an airport wheelchair at the check-in area, waiting for someone to come along to wheel me over to my United Airlines gate. The large hall had emptied out of people and there were just two of us left.
There was a tall young Korean man I judged to be in his early to mid-twenties. He had been leaning against a post some fifty feet or so from me, watching me with some intensity for some time. Before long, to my surprise, he walked over to where I was sitting.
He stopped and stood behind me.
He put his arm around my shoulder and hugged me.
He leaned down and whispered in my ear, “Thank you for what you did for my country”.
He turned around and walked away, leaving me alone, astonished, with my reflections and my tears.
Stan Levin is a member of San Diego Veterans for Peace, Hugh Thompson Memorial Chapter #91 and an activist for the homeless.