Gen. Victorino Azada, President of the PEFTOK Veterans Association,
Esteemed officials from the national and local governments of the Republic of Korea,
Distinguished members and families of the PEFTOK Veterans Association, Officials of the Philippine Embassy, Friends, Ladies and GentlemenOn September 19, 1950, the first of five Battalion Combat Teams from the Philippine Army arrived in Busan to take part in what would technically become one of the longest continuing wars in recent history.The Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea, or PEFTOK, proudly became the 10th Battalion Combat Team and the 3rd UNC ground combat unit to enter the Korean War after the United States and the United Kingdom. Over a five-year period, a total of 7,420 Filipino men stood side by side with South Korean soldiers and other international regiments to help defend South Korea from the invasion of the communist North. They were thrust into unfamiliar terrain, guided only by determination to heed the call of duty and loyalty to the principles of democracy. For 116 of them, South Korea also proved to be their last stand as they paid, with their lives, the ultimate price of freedom.
Among those who took part in the Korean War is former Philippine President Fidel V. Ramos who, to this day, regards South Korea with significance and esteem, as well as two former ambassadors to South Korea, the late Col. Nicanor Jimenez and Gen. Ernesto Gidaya. We are also blessed today with the presence of Filipino veterans and family members who flew all the way from Manila to join us in this meaningful occasion.
Ladies and gentlemen,We stand here today, fifty eight years since the first Philippine team set foot on the peninsula, to commemorate the soldiers whose heroism and sacrifice helped our South Korean brethren remain progressive and free. They were young men then, and very brave. They were honest men. They were men who lived for a cause and were willing to die for it.But it is not enough that we commemorate their courage and valor today. We have the responsibility to ensure that their sacrifices are not for naught. We need to protect our freedom with equal fortitude and conviction so that generations after us can benefit from the same liberty we now enjoy. We must work hard so that the bond between the Filipino and Korean peoples will flourish, that we will continue helping each other provide a better life for our peoples. We reap today the benefits of this robust alliance in the form of political and economic partnership as well as people-to-people exchanges. South Korea is currently a major trading partner of the Philippines, its second main source of foreign direct investments, and its top sender of visitors.We are obliged, with all our resources, to make sure that the stories of our soldiers do not get lost in the annals of history. It is our duty to inform the younger generation of their stories, for much learning can be had from their experiences. I am honored to visit last Sunday two memorials erected in Yultong to mark the battle where the Philippine contingent displayed extraordinary strength and chivalry. Dwarfed by this bigger monument and almost forgotten over time, the memorials were last visited nearly four decades ago in 1972. Because the bigger of the two Yultong memorials was the first of its kind commemorating the contribution of UN forces during the war, it was inaugurated with much fanfare in 1966, with high-level Korean Government officials even attending the ceremony. Today, with the help of our friends from the Korean Government, we are re-unveiling the markers to ensure that the stories of our comrades, of those who came before us, will never fall by the wayside.For in their stories we will learn. And in keeping their stories alive and safe will we be able to give to them the greatest tribute we can ever pay.
In their memory we offer this day.
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