Korean War vets visit South Korea as guests of the government

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Korean War vets visit South Korea as guests of the government

by: Krystle Wagner | .
Grand Haven Tribune, Mich. | .
published: August 18, 2016
 GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (Tribune News Service) — More than 60 years after Norm Spring was stationed on the front lines in South Korea, he returned as a guest of the country’s government.
 
The Grand Haven man, now 83, recently spent a little more than a week with his wife, Barbara, visiting South Korea. About 45 veterans and their guests visited sites such as the War Memorial that honors soldiers from around the world who died in the Korean Conflict, the National Museum of Korea and Olympic Park.
 
Over the years, the South Korean government has reached out to veterans like Spring to visit the country as guests for having served in the Korean War, Spring said.
 
Spring was last in South Korea when he served in the U.S. Army in 31st Infantry Regiment of the Seventh Infantry Division, also called the “Bayonet Division.” He said serving in the military seems like “a long time ago.”
 
The Springs’ trip to South Korea differed from the last time he was there.
 
His first trip involved traveling from Fort Campbell, Ky., to San Francisco, then a propeller airplane ride to an island to refuel, and then to Hawaii to refuel before landing in Tokyo, Japan. He served in the military police in Tokyo for a year and a half before being sent to South Korea. Then 19, he was on the Korean front for nine months.
 
This time, the Springs flew from Grand Rapids to Detroit before their 13-hour flight to the Asian country.
 
Spring went home in September 1953 after the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed the previous July.
 
After being discharged from the Army, Spring attended Michigan State University. He was a teacher for 35 years — 25 of those years were spent with Grand Haven Area Public Schools.
 
Throughout the trip, veterans and their guests received a police escort as they toured various parts of the country. One of the places the veterans group visited while in South Korea that stood out the most to Spring was Panmunjom. He was stationed close to the city, which Spring said has become a “metropolis.”
 
“It was an entirely different operation (then),” he said.
 
Throughout the visit, Spring said South Koreans made sure the veterans felt thanked for their efforts in the war.
 
“They were adamant about thanking us for the democracy they have,” he said.
 
The veterans were also awarded a medal that says, “You will always be our hero.”
 
“It was a really worthwhile trip,” Spring said.
 
©2016 the Grand Haven Tribune (Grand Haven, Mich.)
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