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MILFORD—Caroline County students made history on Nov. 11 as the Caroline County Middle School History Club dedicated the Korean War Memorial Garden to the veterans who served in the war.
The 38th parallel is the dividing line between North and South Korea. The line of latitude 38 degrees north of the Earth’s equator runs all the way around the world, and right through the front property of Caroline High School.
When the history club members at the middle school found out about the location of this invisible line, they decided to mark the area somehow.
So the students enlisted the help of teachers to reach their goal of placing a historical marker at the site.
The ceremony on Nov. 11 began with the procession of flags by the Caroline Middle School History Club. The CMS JROTC color guard posted the colors, followed by the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance.
County Supervisor Floyd Thomas and the county’s building official, Kevin Wightman, were given many thanks by teachers and students for their support and contributions to the memorial.
During the part of the program where history club members gave their account of the project, one young man noted that, at first, the Virginia Historical Society denied the request for a marker. “But,” exclaimed the student, “that did not stop us.”
Another student and member of the history club piped up, stating that the memorial “would not have been possible if it wasn’t for Mr. Kevin,” who not only helped pay for the project, but was an integral part of the construction as well.
“It is a great feeling to know that the history club is making its own history,” another student shared with the audience.
Nancy Carson, the chairperson of the School Board spoke briefly, stating that the “Korean War Vets are truly the unsung heroes.” Carson also noted that this memorial “shows that the Caroline County Schools are something to be proud of.”
Thomas also spoke during the ceremony. “This is unbelievable,” he said immediately. Thomas addressed the veterans, wanting to first thank them for their service. “We are honored by what you have done,” he said. “We are honored by our past and our future.”
Congressman Rob Whitman was also present for the occasion. Whitman spoke about the greatness of the memorial and for what it stands. He commented on how the project “started with our students, transcended to the community, and then to our veterans.”
“We need to make sure that we stand by our commitment to our vets,” Whitman said.
Wightman also spoke during the memorial dedication ceremony. “What a great day to be in Caroline County!” he began. Wightman said that when the students began inquiring about the marker, “Floyd and I got together and decided a sign couldn’t be out in the middle of nowhere, and that we could do something better.”
Wightman also said the CMS students “did a great job.” He added, “From where I’m standing, the future’s looking pretty bright.”
After the recognition of veterans, and the closing of the ceremony, the Korean war veterans were invited to come into the garden that was presented in their honor.
Jim Chase, an Amy veteran, said he served in the Korean war from September 1951 until August 1952. Chase said that it made him feel fantastic “to know that children of that age group came alive and helped people to remember what this war was about.”
Chase said that he has felt in the past that Korean veterans have been overlooked and forgotten, and it shouldn’t be that way because the war was “the beginning of the end of communism.”
Chase, who is now 83 years old, was 21 during his service in the Korean war. He has been married to his wife for 31 years and has six children, 11 grandchildren and five great grandchildren. Chase said that he really feels good about the young people today, and praised them for being “very smart.”
Chase has never owned a car made in Korea. “Only owned American!” he stated.
Graham Nelms, retired Navy, and a veteran who served in World War II as well as the Korean war, was very grateful to the students and the community for the memorial garden. “It made me feel so proud,” he said, noting that there are so few events like this around. “This is a great tribute,” Nelms said happily.
Nelms said that when he returned from fighting in WWII, there were parades, and a big deal was made about those who returned. “When we came back from Korea, there wasn’t much of any recognition,” he said.
Nelms said the ship that he served on during the Korean War would do what they called “bird-doggingj,” and would fire shots. His ship was also part of a rescue fleet. He said that he personally did not know anyone who lost their life during the Korean War, but that his ship was hit after he left on rotation, and that the attack resulted in many casualties.
Nelms, who is now 87-years-old, was 23 when he served in Korea and 17 during WWII. “My teenage years were spent in the Navy and during World War II,” he noted. Nelms said he was married between serving in WWII and Korea, and now has four daughters. He also stated that he has never owned a Korean-made car. As for how he feels about the students of Caroline Middle School, Nelms said “I am so grateful to them for stirring up the interest, and old memories. This is good for an old man.”