ANAHEIM, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Soldiers from the 40th Infantry Division fought in some of the Korean War’s most brutal battles including Heartbreak Ridge and the Punchbowl from 1951 until the end of the War in 1953. They are holding their final reunion this week in Anaheim. Even though the unit was highly decorated for its actions in combat, its legacy will be forever tied to the school the Soldiers built in Gapyeong, South Korea during the War in 1952.
“The 40th ID had an adopt-a-school program in Korea before the concept was even popular here in the States”
While fighting the North Koreans and Chinese in the Gapyeong area, the 40th ID’s Commander, Major General Joseph Cleland, was deeply moved to see approximately 150 students studying in tents near the battlefield. He ordered each man in the Division to contribute $15 to help build a 10 room school for the students that was completed in August of 1952.
Today Gapyeong High School, originally named the Kenneth Kaiser School for the first soldier in the 40th ID killed in action in Korea, graduates 900 students each year and is one of the top five high schools in the Republic of Korea. Veterans from the 40th ID who helped build the first school building 62 years ago return each year for graduation and provide scholarships for the students.
“The 40th ID had an adopt-a-school program in Korea before the concept was even popular here in the States,” said Marshall Taggert, one of the Veterans at the reunion who helped build the school. “We saw a need and filled the void and have maintained our relationship with the school and community for over decades. A few of the former students live in Los Angeles and other states.”
A special delegation from Gapyeong High School traveled from Korea to Anaheim to make a presentation to the 40th ID at Wednesday evening’s program where Congressman Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, honored the unit. Tonight, LTC Dennis Snelling, a member of the Department of Defense 60th Anniversary of the Korean War Commemoration Committee, will present members of the 40th ID with certificates signed by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and medals from the Republic of Korea.
“The Committee believes the Veterans of the 40th ID epitomize selfless sacrifice,” said LTC Snelling. “They were sent to Korea to fight a War but still found the time and energy to build a school so the young people of Gapyeong could learn.”
The Department of Defense Korean War 60th Anniversary Commemoration Committee, authorized in the 2011 Defense Authorization Bill, is dedicated to thanking and honoring all the Veterans of the Korean War, their families and especially those who lost loved ones in that war. Over the next three years the Committee will honor the service and sacrifice of Korean War Veterans, commemorate the key events of the war, and educate Americans of all ages about the historical significance of the Korean War. For more information, visit www.koreanwar60.com