Korean War vet­eran started cer­e­mony in that coun­try to hon­our fallen com­rades

Windsor Star - - FRONT PAGE - SHARON HILL [email protected]

Korean War vet­eran Vince Courte­nay, 85, will be in Bu­san, South Korea, for a Re­mem­brance Day cer­e­mony on Mon­day he started there in 2007. The Wind­sor man will be pre­sented with hon­orary Bu­san cit­i­zen­ship.

Vince Courte­nay had been in the Korean War less than two weeks when a bu­gler ar­rived to play the Last Post.

Low-fly­ing air­craft straf­ing en­emy po­si­tions flew over­head to sup­port the U.S. marines at the front lines about a kilo­me­tre away.

“I’d got some food and was sit­ting be­side a World War II vet­eran and didn’t know it. I wasn’t even think­ing of Nov. 11 to tell the truth and this bu­gler went up and stood on the high part of the ground and started play­ing the bu­gle,” the 85-year-old Wind­sor vet­eran re­called Wed­nes­day.

“I said to the guy, ‘What the heck is this?’ and he said, ‘Some day they’ll play that for you.’ ”

That was Re­mem­brance Day 1952.

This Re­mem­brance Day, Courte­nay will be back in South Korea for the Turn To­ward Bu­san ser­vice, a cer­e­mony he started there in 2007 along with a global ob­ser­vance where vet­er­ans around the world turn to face South Korea to re­mem­ber their fallen com­rades on the 11th day of the 11th month at 11 a.m. in South Korean time if pos­si­ble.

Courte­nay will be pre­sented with hon­orary Bu­san cit­i­zen­ship Mon­day, which is a rare hon­our, he said. The city has more than 3.5 mil­lion res­i­dents.

Near Bu­san, for­merly spelled Pu­san, there are about 2,300 ser­vice­men buried at the United Na­tions Me­mo­rial Ceme­tery, the only United Na­tions ceme­tery in the world. In­cluded there are the graves of 378 Cana­di­ans.

A to­tal of 516 Cana­di­ans died in the Korean War, which saw more than 26,000 Cana­di­ans fight from 1950 to 1953 with UN forces af­ter com­mu­nist North Korea in­vaded South Korea.

The Korean War was a for­got­ten war.

“I don’t like to call it that but I guess that’s true. No­body much cared about it while it was go­ing on,” he said. “Many peo­ple didn’t even know there had been a war.”

On his sec­ond trip back to South Korea in 1997, Courte­nay vis­ited the United Na­tions ceme­tery and found the graves of 10 or 11 sol­diers he had served with who were killed within days of each other.

“I stood there and I just felt ab­so­lutely hor­ri­ble,” he said of the weath­ered bronze plaques on the ground. “I knew no­body ever came in there to see them and that was also an el­e­ment in me get­ting ev­ery­body in dif­fer­ent coun­tries to turn to­wards the UN ceme­tery and hold a moment of si­lence for them.”

Bri­tish vet­er­ans had asked about a cer­e­mony at the ceme­tery and

I knew no­body ever came in there (vets’ ceme­tery) to see them and that was also an el­e­ment in me get­ting ev­ery­body in dif­fer­ent coun­tries to turn to­ward the UN ceme­tery.

Courte­nay, who was in­volved as a con­sul­tant, wanted to or­ga­nize not only a ser­vice of re­mem­brance there but ask vet­er­ans around the world to hold a minute of si­lence and turn to­ward the burial place of their Korean War com­rades. The first cer­e­mony was in 2007 with about 700 peo­ple, he said.

It ex­panded as a na­tional cer­e­mony and South Korea pays for part of the air­fare and ex­penses for vet­er­ans or de­scen­dants of sol­diers to fly there for the an­nual Turn To­ward Bu­san cer­e­mony each year, he said. About 22 na­tions sent troops and equip­ment or pro­vided non-com­bat sup­port to South Korea.

The love the Dutch peo­ple hold for Canada and Cana­dian sol­diers who lib­er­ated the Nether­lands at the end of the Sec­ond World War is well known. South Kore­ans are like that to all the vet­er­ans who helped de­fend their coun­try, he said.

“Every­where they go, the peo­ple are cheer­ing for them and telling them thank you.”

Courte­nay has lost count of the num­ber of trips he’s made to South Korea in the last two decades. He helped raise money and de­sign a mon­u­ment for the Cana­dian sol­diers at the UN ceme­tery.

The Wind­sor re­servist at Petawawa had just turned 16 when he signed up in 1950. An in­jury de­layed his en­try in the war and he served with the Princess Pa­tri­cia’s Light In­fantry from Oc­to­ber 1952 to 1953.

When he heard the bu­gler play the Last Post on Re­mem­brance Day/ar­mistice Day 1952, he stood at at­ten­tion and thought of his fa­ther Thomas, a First World War vet­eran who had just died.

A week later, Courte­nay would be walk­ing over the bod­ies of Bri­tish sol­diers and fight­ing at the front lines in the sec­ond Bat­tle of the Hook. The front lines didn’t change much as ca­su­al­ties con­tin­ued in what would be­come known as the war of pa­trols.

“It was a ter­ri­ble war.”



Korean War vet­eran Vince Courte­nay, 85, will be in Bu­san, South Korea, on Re­mem­brance Day for a cer­e­mony he started there in 2007 called Turn To­ward Bu­san.


Vince Courte­nay poses in this photo from the Korean War where he served with the Cana­dian Armed Forces.

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