Vice President Mike Pence formally welcomed home to the United States on Wednesday the remains of American military “heroes” killed in the Korean War, whom he said were on President Donald Trump’s heart during recent meetings with North Korea’s leader in Singapore.
Pence brought greetings at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam from President Trump, “whose leadership and compassion brought this day about,” said Pence. The remains of American military “heroes” killed in the Korean War were received in 55 flag-draped cases on Wednesday night.
“Some have called the Korean War the “forgotten war.” But today, we prove these heroes were never forgotten. Today, our boys are coming home,” said the Vice President. He spoke of his father, Lieutenant Ed Pence, who “fought in combat in the Korean War.”
“Sixty-five years ago last week, the armistice was signed to bring the Korean War to its close,” he said. “From the moment the guns fell silent, American soldiers returned home, some to their families and futures, and some to their eternal rest. But more than 8,000 Americans did not come home at all.”
He spoke of “North Korea’s nuclear threats and escalations” over past years that have hindered attempts to bring those fallen American heroes home, “until today.”
Pence then spoke of Trump’s heart for the fallen Americans:
On June 12, President Trump traveled to a historic summit in Singapore with Kim Jong-Un of North Korea. As our President entered into negotiations with North Korea, he also had our fallen on his heart. As he secured a commitment for the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, our President also secured a promise from Chairman Kim to return the remains of all fallen U.S. service-members lost in North Korea.
“I know that President Trump is grateful that Chairman Kim has kept his word, and we see today as tangible progress in our efforts to achieve peace on the Korean Peninsula,” said Pence.
The Vice President called this event, “just a beginning” and that work will not be complete until all of the fallen are “accounted for and home.” He quoted words from the Korean War Memorial, “Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met.”
The Korean War came less than five years after the end of World War II. Pence described the battle between “the forces of freedom and the forces of communism” represented in the Korean War.
Pence counted the Korean War’s cost:
Over three long years, nearly two million American patriots took up the fight. More than 100,000 were injured. And 36,574 gave their all to defend our freedom and secure freedom for South Korea. Their acts of courage were no less heroic than that of their brothers-in-arms who stormed the beaches at Normandy or Iwo Jima.
The Vice President recounted the personal stories of some of those who lost their lives in the war. “We don’t know who will come off these planes today, but we do know they are heroes all,” he said.
Pence recounted fallen Army Sergeant Dom Eritano of Ohio who had served in World War II as well. “He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star and the Purple Heart,” said Pence.
He also remembered “Major Charles Loring –who’d been held prisoner by the Nazis after being captured in 1944. Less than a decade later, he returned to battle.” After being hit, “Major Loring directed his plane into the very enemy artillery that was threatening American soldiers.”
First Lieutenant Hal Downes was also lost in the war, leaving behind a wife, Elinor, unborn daughter, and three-year-old son Rick who has worked to “honor his father’s memory and support the families of our missing fallen from the Korean War.”
Pence remembered also First Lieutenant Frank Salazar, whose daughter Diana was four-years-old when her father left for war. Diana met with Pence Tuesday night at the same Air Force base where she last saw her father.
“Whosoever emerges from these aircraft – today begins a new season of hope for the families of our missing fallen,” said Pence. He thanked the Korean War veterans for their service and said, “We hope that in this ceremony…that you leave with the absolute assurance that the Korean War is forgotten no more.”
To the honored dead, Pence said, “We breathe a word of thanks for your service and sacrifice – and we say to you, as one people, with one voice…Welcome home.”