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Korean War veterans honored at Vets Home

Joyce Donegan, left, is honored for her service and sacrifice in the Korean War 60 years ago by Major Guillermo Canedo of the U.S. Marine Corps during a ceremony at the Veterans Home of California at Yountville Thursday. Many local veterans of the war were awarded certificates of appreciation signed by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta as part of the Department of Defense 60th Anniversary of the Korean War Commemoration Committee program. Jorgen Gulliksen/Register

YOUNTVILLE — As Marcella McCormack, the director of the Veterans Home of California, read his name into the microphone Thursday, Chuck Gatling scooted in his wheelchair toward the dais to receive two certificates of appreciation.

“It’s very impressive,” said the 80-year-old U.S. Air Force veteran after returning to the audience.

Gatling was among the 100-plus veterans who served during the Korean War from 1950-1953 — either in Korea or elsewhere — who received certificates of appreciation from the Department of Defense and the California Department of Veterans Affairs.

Gatling, who will move from the Veterans Home to Chicago to live with a daughter in a few weeks, said he will hang the certificates in his new home.

The war started on June 25, 1950, and ended with an armistice on July 27, 1953. Six decades later, South Korea, once a poor nation, is now the 10th largest economic power in the world, speakers noted Thursday.

Speakers at Grant Hall included U.S. Marine Maj. Guillermo Canedo, a member of the 60th Anniversary of the Korean Commemoration Committee, who spoke on behalf of the Department of Defense.

The 13-member committee, authorized in the 2011 Defense Authorization bill, is based in northern Virginia near Washington, D.C. It honors Korean War veterans throughout the country and educates Americans about the conflict.

The Korean war, Canedo told the veterans, has been treated as a footnote over the years.

The recognition of the Korean War veterans is long overdue, Canedo said. His committee’s mission is “to find you and to honor you for your sacrifice.”

“Veterans, I come today to express the gratitude of the American people for your shining victory on the Korean peninsula,” he said. “I can assure you that your country has not forgotten your sacrifices.”

About 220 Korean War veterans live at the Veterans Home in Yountville, home to more than 990 residents. About 100 Korean War veterans replied to the invitation to attend the ceremony, Jody Price, a representative for the Veterans Home said.

Donald Smith, 80, who came with his guide dog, Nate, found the ceremony beautiful. So did Diana “Ruth” Levitan, who served with the U.S. Marine Corps during the Korean War.

“It’s awesome. It’s wonderful to know that we are all appreciated,” said the 81-year-old retired early childhood educator from the East Bay.

Louis Zauner, another veteran, said it’s important to remember the wars to avoid the mistakes of the past.

“If we forget the wars and the sacrifices, we can’t do better in the future than we did in the past,” said Zauner, 87, after receiving his two certificates. “We should learn from our wars.”

Before the ceremony, Neil Remnant, 80, who was among those honored, said he could not believe six decades have gone by.

“This has gone very fast,” he said, seated in a motorized scooter. “It’s hard to believe it’s been 60 years.”

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