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U.S. Military Leaders Pay Respects at South Korean Cemetery

By Jim Garamone
SEOUL, South Korea —

American military leaders paid their respects here today to the Korean allies who died in defense of freedom during the Korean War.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, led an American delegation that placed a wreath at the Seoul National Cemetery and Memorial Tower on the banks of the Han River. Korean Navy Vice Adm. Won escorted the American party.

Like Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, the Seoul National Cemetery is the resting place of thousands of Koreans who fought for their country.

Thousands of headstones surround the Memorial Tower. But the scope of the Korean people’s sacrifice can be glimpsed only by looking under the tower. In a flower-filled room, the names of 104,000 Korean are inscribed. They were killed during the Korean War, but their bodies were never recovered. Also in the room are the ashes of more than 7,000 Korean service members whose bodies were recovered, but not identified.

Dempsey approached the tower along with Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, and Army Gen. James D. Thurman, commander of U.S. Forces Korea. All three men placed incense in a large charcoal-filled brazier after placing the wreath. The smoke wafted off the coals as the military leaders bowed their heads in respect and saluted as South Korean buglers played the Korean equivalent of taps.

Dempsey is here to consult with South Korean military leaders and to participate in the 45th Security Consultative Talks, along with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

Tomorrow, the chairman will join Hagel as Thurman turns over command of U.S. Forces Korea, Combined Forces Command and United Nations Command to Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti.