One of the first things I do when I wake up in the morning is to surf the net and check out what has been happening around the world over night.
I usually end up checking out the website of my hometown newspaper The News Tribune for any local news back home. Invariably, and as morbid as this may sound, I also check out the obituary page.
This morning I was saddened to learn that a Korean War Veteran Floyd Hybki had passed away over the weekend.
In the summer of 2003, I met Mr. Hybki in of all places Panmunjom. He was one of 400 veterans from the United States who had been given an all-expenses paid trip to Korea to take part in the commemoration of the signing of the armistice. I had found out that he was coming to Korea after reading an article about him on the News Tribune’s website. Ironically, that spring I had written an article about an event at the War Memorial Museum in Seoul when a drawing was held to select these 400 veterans.
He was just one of the tens of thousands of young men who found themselves in Korea between 1950-53 fighting to save a nation from the throes of Communism. He was no hero in the true sense of the word. He might not have saved a fallen comrade when pinned down by a barrage of heavy machine-gun fire or held off opposing forces until reinforcements could arrive. Instead, Hybki was an ordinary service member who had simply answered his nation’s call to duty.
To be sure, Hybki and others were just ordinary men who were thrust into extraordinary circumstances from those early days of the war with Task Force Smith, the Pusan Perimeter and the Inchon Landing, to the Chosin Reservoir, Chipyong-ni, Gloster Hill, Kapyong and Heartbreak Ridge. They came from all walks of life and many had fought in World War II. It is hard to imagine that the Korean War could ever be referred to as a “forgotten war” when so many young men paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom in the paddies and mountains of Korea.
When I was writing for The Korea Times and covering many of the Korean War commemorative events from 2000-2003, I had the chance to meet many veterans who had returned to Korea. Some were bona fide heroes like Medal of Honor recipient Gen. Raymond Davis or Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley. Many though were like Hybki who could go through life proud of their service in Korea.