April 7, 2010
Memorial Cemetery in Busan
Leo Demay places two roses on his father’s grave on November 11, 2009; one for his mother who was too ill to fly to Korea and one from himself.
The first revisit round for the 2010 commemoration year takes place in a few days during the week of April 11.
More than 200 veterans from the Commonwealth nations will participate, including 88 from the United Kingdom, 62 from Canada and the remainder from Australia and New Zealand.
On February 14 they will board a KTX bullet train at Seoul Station and speed for three hours to Busan.
One of the officials waiting to greet them at the United Nations Memorial Cemetery will be Leo DeMay, a Canadian citizen, who is the director of international operations.
Leo, at the grave of his father, Soldat André Régimbald, November 11, 2007, during the first November 11Turn Toward Busan ceremony
held within the United Nations Memorial Cemetery.
While there, the assistant custodian told him that in a few weeks the UN Cemetery would be holding its first ever November 11 Commemoration for United Nations Fallen.
The assistant custodian explained that the November 11 service had been suggested by members of the British Korean War Veterans Association when they visited the cemetery the previous year.
The assistant custodian had asked a veteran consultant to help organize the event and they both went to work on it. Some 200 ROK Veterans from Busan participated in the service, as well as leading members from the Canada Korea Society, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Korea and Busan and regional government officials.
Also participating in 2007 was the Sukpo children’s choir, whose classmate predecessors had sung at a national service in Ottawa, Canada four years earlier.
There were no Korean War Veterans from the UN Nations participating in the 2007 launch program. So Peter Seiersen, a Canadian veteran from British Columbia flew to Korea at his own expense to represent veterans from Canada and all other nations.
Korean War Veteran Peter Seiersen represented all Veterans at the 2007 Turn Toward Busan service in the United Nations Memorial Cemetery. Peter’s dear wife Elizabeth passed away a few days ago at the end of March, but he nonetheless will participate in the April revisit in which he has responsibility for managing some of the Veterans. Our heart certainly goes out to this kind, caring gentleman.
Leo DeMay decided to stay an extra month in Korea to participate in the November 11 service. He did so and during that time he began to feel in his heart that he would not be returning to Canada.
He became immensely tied to the place where his father rests among his 377 Canadian comrades and the hundreds of others who fell and are buried there. The UN Cemetery Custodian was impressed with his qualifications and the assistant custodian was planning to retire. Leo was offered his present position.
He has carried out his duties in an exemplary way ever since.
The 2007 Turn Toward Busan service in the United Nations Cemetery was the “hub” for services held in Canada and other nations. Veterans voluntarily turned toward Busan to blend their respectful salute and sentiments with those being made in Busan.
In Canada, there is a Monument to Canadian Fallen located in the national capital of Ottawa. It is a duplicate of the one that was dedicated in the United Nations Memorial Cemetery on November 11, 2001. (It was later Consecrated in ceremonies during a Commonwealth revisit program in April, 2002).
The Ottawa Monument faces along a plot line to the UN Cemetery in Busan.
In 2007 Veterans Affairs Canada joined with the Korea Veterans Association of Canada to hold a national service in Ottawa on the evening of November 10, at 9 p.m.
It coincided exactly with the first November service to take place in the UN Cemetery, because it was then 11 a.m. on November 11 in Busan.
The Ottawa service was televised by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. On the next day it was broadcast all across Canada as part of the CBC’s regular 2-hour November 11 Remembrance Day programming.
In other cities and towns from coast to coast, including Cape Breton in Nova Scotia and Salt Spring Island on the shores of Vancouver Island, groups of Korean War Veterans also held “Turn toward Busan” services in remembrance of fallen comrades.
There also were observances in some communities in Australia, France, New Zealand and the United States.
Col B.H. Bowness, United Nations Mine Clearance Administrator for Asia held such a ceremony in Bangkok, and a year later he and a contingent of Canadian officers on special assignment in Jerusalem also held a Turn Toward Busan service.
The Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs had an observer at the service in Busan in 2007.
The Ministry became so interested in the solemn, moving ceremony that they took action to take it over as an annual national commemoration observance.
Minister of Patriots and Veterans Affairs Kim Jung-bok expressed strong support for the November 11 Turn Toward Busan program, and it was given in 2008, but the national ceremony unfortunately was not held by the MPVA in 2009. He was succeeded as the Minister of Patriots and Veterans Affairs by the very well known Kim Yang, son of a Korean War ROK Air Force fighter pilot and general, and he is a grandson of Kim Gu, one of Korea’s greatest resistance leaders during the 35-year Japanese occupation of Korea.
In 2008, the MPVA brought bereaved family members from Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom to the UN Memorial Cemetery to participate in the November 11 Turn Toward Busan Commemorative Ceremony of Thanks and Remembrance for the United Nations Fallen.
Leo Demay, of course, was the on-site coordinator.
There were more than 600 veterans and dignitaries present in 2008, ROK honour guards from all branches of service, opera singers, diplomats.
It was a stunning success and preliminary plans were discussed for the follow-on 2009 November 11 service.
Tom Parker, Australian Veteran who had been wounded in the Korean War, salutes after placing a flower on an outdoors shrine during the November 11 ceremony in 2009. Behind him is Canadian Veteran Peter Remdenok. Other Veterans from New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States also placed flowers at the shrine. Veteran Frank Fallows from the UK was commander of the Veterans Honour Guard.
Unfortunately, the follow-on 2009 November 11 service was quietly cancelled by the MPVA, which based the decision on concerns about the H1N1 flu.
Leo DeMay took the cancellation in stride. Indeed, he re-instituted the “original” veteran-originated November 11 service that he had experienced in 2007. It was small by the standard of 2008 when the MPVA had sponsored it, but by no means less solemn or meaningful.
Sixty ROK Veterans from Busan, all in their 80’s, participated. Their leader placed a large bouquet at the United Nations Wall of Remembrance, which is engraved with the names of more than 40,000 United Nations service members who lost their lives in the Korean War. Then every one of the ROK Veterans placed a flower at the Commonwealth Memorial to Those With No Known Graves.
ROK Veteran Colonel and commander of the KVA Busan Chapter contingent places floral tribute on behalf of all ROK
Veterans at Eternal Flame in rear of the United Nations Wall of Remembrance.
They also placed floral tribute at the Monument to Canadian Fallen.
There were buglers present from the ROK Army and a small ROK Army Guard of Honour.
ROK Veterans place flowers individually at the Commonwealth Monument to Those With No Known Graves
Leo’s arrangements were magnificent. He arranged for the podium and public address system, handled invitations for the ROK Veterans, handled orders for the flowers and he planned out and emceed the ceremony.
Leo DeMay pays tribute at Monument to Canadian Fallen on November 11, 2009, following ceremonies held at the United Nations Wall of Remembrance. The floral presentations are from the Korea Veterans Association of Canada and the Canadian Embassy.
The service was solemn and meaningful and the ROK Veterans were much moved. Once again, a Veteran from Canada flew over at personal expense as the representative of Veterans from the UN Allies nations.
In Canada, the national service was again held in Ottawa, as it had been in the two preceding years. Canada's Minister of Veterans Affairs participated and for the third time he made a speech lauding those who had served in the war and the Korean Government that supported the November 11 service – even though that year it did not.
It should be noted that in addition to the November 11 service each year, Leo DeMay also coordinates, hosts and often emcees services for veterans, bereaved family members and students. This includes six veterans revisit rounds.
There is much more to do before the autumn but he is already looking toward November 11 in 2010. The final round of veteran revisits for the commemorative year is scheduled for November. It will coincide with the week in which the G-20 – the nations with the world’s 20 foremost economies – meet in Seoul.
The heads of government from 10 of the nations that participated as UN Allies in the Korean War will be on the ground in Korea for that summit meeting.
The Prime Ministers of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, President Barak Obama of the United States, and other world leaders will be present.
Leo DeMay lives a short distance from the United Nations Memorial Cemetery. He can view the grounds from his home.
His office within the Cemetery grounds is just a short walk from his father’s final resting place.
There are roses growing between the graves.
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Above article provided courtesy of the Korean War Veteran, email@example.com