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TRIBUTE TO VETERANS

Honourable Senators,

As we mark Veterans’ Week, we honour the brave Canadians who helped defend the values of peace, freedom and justice around the world, including the Korean War.

We remember how selflessly Canada answered a country’s call for help.  We remember their valour.  We remember the 516 brave Canadians who made the ultimate sacrifice in service during the war. 

We also remember the Canadian fallen, who row upon row, are buried in the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Busan, Korea - far from home. They had been forgotten for 50 years until a monument was designed and built in their memory.

In fact, there are two Monuments to Canadian Fallen during the Korean War: the one in Busan, Korea and the exact slightly larger one here in Ottawa in Confederation Park. It was set in position by the National Capital Commission so that the two standing figures (a little Korean boy standing next to a Canadian soldier holding a little girl of 4 or 5) look along a plot line to the exact GPS coordinates  where the Korean monument is located in the UN Cemetery more than 6000 miles across the Pacific Ocean.

A Canadian delegation of distinguished veterans will soon travel to Busan to take part in a ceremony of remembrance called "Turn Toward Busan" on November 11th. In Ottawa, a "Turn Toward Busan" ceremony will take place on Nov. 10th evening, perfectly timed to coincide with the one in Korea.  Among the delegation are two Korean War Veterans who will pay homage at the graves of their brothers for the first time in nearly 60 years.

A Korean War veteran by the name of Vince Courtenay will also be with them. He is the initiator of the "Turn Toward Busan" program (generously sponsored by Korea's Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs); and the key person responsible for the Monuments' existence. In his own words, here's WHY:

"When I first returned to Korea and got up the nerve to visit my friends’ graves...I was spiritually crushed by the utter starkness and loneliness and nothingness of the place as I found it then...

"I had to hunt for their graves. I came on them not by logic but by wandering. They were all together...buried in rows, with the grave locations dictated by the dates of their deaths.

"I nearly crumpled to the ground. There, in memory of each of them was a small bronze plaque, flat to the ground. It bore their surname with only initials for their given names, as well as their service number and rank, their unit, their age and the date of their death.

"I knew that nobody from Canada flew out there like I had done to visit these fallen friends; these comrades. They had been there then for fifty years, alone, and it broke my heart. There was nobody else in the cemetery...

"Yes one sheds tears.

One sees tragedy; no trace of those Fallen comrades remaining. I decided at once that I would try to put a face on these young Canadians... It was for them, the Fallen; that people would know more about them than a stark bronze marker plate in the frosty grass.

"I wanted to show they were kindly men, good men, family men, young boys who might better have been in high school, or in college readying for the professions, or anywhere else but in that lonely ground in Korea..."

Thanks to Vince and many who supported the effort, we will remember them. Nous nous souviendrons d'eux.

Lest We Forget.

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