Soldiers gather to honor KATUSA killed at Korean JSA in 1984
By Seth Robson, Stars and Stripes
JOINT SECURITY AREA, South Korea — Twenty-one years ago, Sgt. 1st Class Gary Ross helped save a defecting Soviet citizen fleeing armed North Korean soldiers here.
Ross returned to the Joint Security Area on Wednesday to speak at a ceremony to honor Korean Augmentee to the U.S. Army Cpl. Jang Myung-gee, who was killed in action in that effort on Nov. 23, 1984, in the United Nations Command section of the Joint Security Area.
U.S. forces in the area reacted quickly to the raid, saving defector Vasily Matusak and killing three North Koreans before a cease-fire was negotiated and the North Koreans withdrew.
Jang was killed in the fighting and a U.S. soldier, Pfc. Michael A. Burgoyne, was wounded.
Ross, the last veteran of the JSA action still serving with the U.S. Army, is based at Camp Walker with the 19th Theater Support Command. He attended a ceremony to mark last year’s anniversary of the raid, but this was the first year he spoke to those attending. Among them were Jang’s family, 8th U.S. Army commander Lt. Gen. Charles C. Campbell and representatives of the British and Australian armed forces.
"I have lived with this for 21 years," said Ross, who retains vivid memories of that day.
"A North Korean died right over there," he said, pointing to the edge of a traffic island yards from where the ceremony took place.
The troops parading at this year’s ceremony were mostly from the South Korean army. A battalion of South Korean soldiers took over the mission from U.S. forces last year, although the South Korean battalion still is commanded by a U.S. officer and about 38 U.S. soldiers remain with the unit.
Jang’s father, Jang Dae-yoon, remembered his son as an active young man who enjoyed practicing tae kwan do and socializing with U.S. soldiers he served alongside.
"It makes me proud to see everyone here for him," Jang Dae-yoon said.
The ceremony also was attended by Jang’s nephew, Pfc. Jang Jong-hoon, who is following in his uncle’s footsteps with the JSA battalion.
United Nations Command Security Battalion commander Lt. Col. Paul E. Snyder said Jang’s actions and those of his comrades were not in vain.
"Their actions provided fellow U.N. soldiers precious seconds to respond and overwhelm the North Korean assault," he said.
More than 150,000 tourists who visit the JSA each year hear the story of Jang’s courage, Snyder said.
"His actions serve as a reminder of what we all expect from disciplined and well-trained soldiers," he said. "Cpl. Jang and his comrades symbolize more than just the friendship of soldiers from two nations serving together. They stood literally side by side in the same way our armies and nations have done for more than 50 years."
Stars & Stripes (Posted 11/25/05)