Americans take honoring those who have made the ultimate and final sacrifice to defend the homeland seriously. Monuments and memorials testify to the loss of treasured young soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen who have bravely fought our nation’s enemies and have died in so doing. The Korean War Veterans Memorial Wall of Remembrance, dedicated on July 27, 2022, pays tribute to the more than 43,000 US service members and Korean augmentees killed in the fighting. These fallen warriors were among the over 1.7 million US military members involved in the effort to liberate the Korean peninsula from the Soviet Union and Chinese-backed invaders.
A Careless Honor
But there’s a problem with the Memorial Wall of Remembrance. During the dedication ceremony, many of the family members of those listed or who deserved to be listed noticed glaring errors. As Stars and Stripes explained, there are more than 400 names omitted, among other mistakes:
“For example: The last name of Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Ambrosio Guillen, 23, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for valor, is misspelled Guilien. He was killed in battle on July 25, 1953. The name of Army Pfc. William Red Horn, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, is rendered Horn W Red on the wall. He was 18 when he was killed Dec. 9, 1951.”
The over 1,000 misspellings are not inadvertent, understandable mistakes but inexcusably careless – the results of sloppy research and inattention to detail. In another instance, Navy helicopter pilot Lt. (J.G.) John Kelvin Koelsch is written “Koelsh.” In a ceremony in 1955, Koelsch was awarded the Medal of Honor for his efforts to rescue an injured comrade when he was shot down and captured and for his courageous leadership while a prisoner of war. He died in captivity. Guillen and Koelsh received our nation’s highest award for gallantry under fire. Staff Sergeant Ambrosio Guillen, “Although critically wounded during the course of the battle…refused medical aid and continued to direct his men throughout the remainder of the engagement until the enemy was defeated,” his Medal of Honor citation reads.
Koelsch’s citation explains that after he had evaded the enemy for nine days and provided medical assistance to his severely burned crew members, he “steadfastly refused to aid his captors in any manner and served to inspire his fellow prisoners by his fortitude and consideration for others.” These award descriptions with the correct spellings were not classified or hidden deep in some archives. A simple two-minute web search revealed the information.
Families Saddled With Finding Mistakes
Whatever the honorable intentions for providing the $22 million to prepare the memorial wall were, failing to do an equally high-quality job in memorializing the fighting and dying of fathers, brothers, and sons sullies the good intentions. Fixing the errors brings even bigger problems. The names are literally etched in stone, and adding omitted names or correcting misspellings is no trivial undertaking. “The errors are a very unfortunate mistake, and DOD [Department of Defense] is working in tandem with the Department of the Interior (DOI) to correct those mistakes,” a Defense Department official explained to the Washington Examiner. The problem for the families is that they must initiate the process of “notifying the department of any names that were omitted, misspelled, or included in error.” One would think, as most of our parents were quick to remind us, “a job worth doing is worth doing well.” Therefore, the organization that made the mistakes should find and correct them.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.
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