Korean War vets visit changed country, 6 decades later - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Korean War vets visit changed country, 6 decades later

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The veterans, from Huntsville and Decatur, were amazed and impressed at what has become of South Korea. The veterans, from Huntsville and Decatur, were amazed and impressed at what has become of South Korea.
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -

Korean War veteran Glenn Phares' voice shook as he talked about his arrival back in Huntsville from South Korea. 

"Your heart's heavy, really heavy," he said as he faced a cheering crowd of well wishers at Huntsville Airport.

It was his second homecoming from South Korea.  The first was six decades ago after his service during the Korean War. 

Nine veterans journeyed back to the peninsula for a tour sponsored by the Legacy 4 Korean War Veterans Foundation, too few for Phares.

"I hope every one of the guys has a chance to do that," he said.

The veterans, from Huntsville and Decatur, were amazed and impressed at what has become of South Korea. 

"I'm just glad that the South Korean government has done something with the freedom that the United Nations - not just us - the United Nations fought to give them," said veteran Lawrence Sepanski.  "And they're very thankful about it.  They want to show it off."

The veterans' tour included numerous cemeteries and memorials by which the South Koreans still honor their protectors from across the sea.  

Sepanski described the people he encountered as gracious and grateful, to the point that it was almost embarrassing.

The vets were uniformly impressed at how much has changed - the many new buildings, cities almost completely rebuilt, high speed rail lines.

They also noticed what has not changed.

"We went to the DMZ, seen some stuff there," Sepanski recalled.  "I got to look across the border at the North Koreans looking back at me, and they weren't shooting this time."

Another common impression was the wrenching contrast between the fortunes of South Korea's children, then versus now.

"It's just hard to see children out on the streets having to forage for food," recalled veteran Billy Neal of his time during the war.

On this trip, full of emotional remembrances, Phares felt uplifted. 

"I guess one of the lighter things was to see the happiness on those children," he observed, "to see the smiling faces and the fact that they live the life as our kids do - and they take advantage of every day of it."

Sepanski found the odyssey uplifting.

"Our efforts were not in vain," he said. 

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