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Korean War vets get medals 50 years later

SAN ANTONIO (AFPN) -- Airman 2nd Class Harry Woodville, a Korean War veteran, has received a medal he waited 50 years for: the Korean War Service Medal.

The Republic of Korea first offered the medal 50 years ago, but a law prevented U.S. troops from accepting medals from foreign countries. In 1999, the law was changed and the Department of Defense approved the medal to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the war.

The Air Force has responsibility for issuing Korean War Service Medals to eligible veterans of all military branches or their primary next of kin. That task is accomplished by people at the Air Force Personnel Center's awards and decorations branch at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

More than 150,000 medals have been sent to veterans so far, said Staff Sgt. Heather Moody from the branch. The Air Force provides the medal at no cost to qualifying veterans who apply with appropriate documentation. About 1.8 million people are eligible according to Department of Defense estimates.

"This is fantastic," says Woodville, a B-29 life-support technician in the 1950s who received his medal in front of more than 1,000 people at a recent ceremony here. "Finally, 50 years later I got the medal."

The San Antonio gathering was one of many nationwide events to be hosted by the Department of Defense's 50th Anniversary of the Korean War Commemoration Committee through Nov. 11.

"The Korean veterans' sacrifices of youth, sweat and blood laid the groundwork of the Korea that stands tall today," said Yang Bong-Ryull, consul general of the Republic of Korea, who addressed the crowd. "Without these sacrifices our freedom would not have existed."

More than 30 other veterans registered for their medals during the gathering. Several other veterans picked up the medal application to take home with them.

"Seeing vets get their medal presented in person is really something," said Moody. "We process hundreds of requests for these medals every day and rarely do we see the actual recipient, let alone their reactions. It really makes me appreciate what we do."

Additional information on the Korean War Service Medal is available at www.afpc.randolph.af.mil/awards/ or by calling the Air Force Contact Center at (866) 229-7074 or DSN 665-5000.

More information about Korean War 50th anniversary events is found at www.korea50.mil or by calling (703) 604-0831.

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