South Korea Honors Ute Tribe Veterans For Service During Korean War
Sep 27, 2018, 7:44 PM | Updated: Sep 28, 2018, 1:56 pm
FORT DUCHESNE, Utah – A delegation from the South Korean government visited Utah to thank several members of the Ute Tribe for their service on behalf of the Korean people.
The Korean War has often been referred to as, “The Forgotten War.” The South Korean government made sure the sacrifices of 19 Native Americans from the Ute Tribe were not forgotten in Fort Duchesne Thursday.
A solemn ceremony was held at a war memorial for American war heroes, with Native American reverence and blessings from the Ute Tribe.
“Even when I think about it, I get emotional,” said John Cole who helped lead the effort.
The award ceremony was a chance for two living Ute combat veterans to get the recognition they deserve. Bernard Lucero, Senior and James Felter received the Ambassador for Peace Medal for their service in Korea. Seventeen other families accepted the award for veterans who have passed, or could not attend.
“It means a lot, you know,“ said Lucero, Sr. “But, not all of us came home, though.“
He was only 17 years old when he went off to war. He followed two older brothers to Korea – Fred, and Manuel, who was killed in combat.
“At 17, you don’t know,” Fred Lucero said.
He told KSL the experience was overwhelming at the time.
“What am I doing over here? Somebody had to do it,” he said.
Lucero was proud of the sacrifices he and his brothers made.
“The only thing I wasn’t proud of was that I was hungry all the time,“ he said.
Since 2014, the South Korean government has thanked American troops who fought with them by awarding them with the medal.
The Korean Consul General flew in from San Francisco to personally present the medals. He told the gathering, said the Korean people attribute a lot of their success and freedom today to the efforts of American troops like the Ute warriors who stepped up to help them fight for their freedom more than six decades ago.
“It’s about the veterans and them getting recognition by the country they helped to save,“ said Cole.
So far, 1500 Utah combat veterans have received the medal, largely because Cole, who served in the 1st Marine Division, led the charge.
“It’s uplifting for me,” he said. “It makes me feel really good because my comrade got recognized for what he did all those years ago.“
Nearly 20 more Utah combat veterans of the Korean War were scheduled to receive the Ambassador for Peace Medal at the American Legion in Vernal on Friday.