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Korean War Veteran Al Lemieux Passes

Korean War Veteran Al Lemieux Passes

Another Marine has reported for duty to guard the streets of heaven.

It is with great sadness that the Missouri Korean War Veterans Memorial Board of Directors shares the sad news of the passing of one of its founding board members and great friends, Al Lemieux.

Al was instrumental in the creation of the State of Missouri Korean War Veterans Memorial in Kansas City, Mo.

Born in Missouri in 1932, Lemieux enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1950 and by January 1951 sailed from San Diego to Korea, arriving February 14, 1951. Lemieux served as a Rifleman with the 3rd Battalion 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division facing action in the Korean War, especially in the Punchbowl area – the site of his last mission. Lemieux was wounded in the Punchbowl battles in September 1951.

Lemieux dedicated many years of service to leading Korean War Veterans Associations and developing memorials to ensure those who served in the “Forgotten War” are not forgotten. He was the Commander of the Kansas City, Mo. Korean War Veterans Association.

“The legacy of the Korean War for me, I had a part in the memorial that was built in Kansas City across from Union Station,” Lemieux told the Korean War Legacy Foundation. “It’s very important we support Korea in every way because there’s a fella up there in the north that’s a danger to Korean people and the world.”

We were honored to work with you, Al.

SEMPER FI, MARINE!

Al Lemieux - A Marine’s Legacy By Nancy Champlin

My father, Al Lemieux, Papa, as I called him, IS and always will be my HERO. Dad was extremely proud of serving his country in Korea and being a Marine. He often stated, ‘the Marines made a man out of me, and my fellow veterans will always be a part of my me.”

My everyday has been shaped by the things Papa taught me directly and indirectly from his time as a Marine. He has always been my moral compass as I steer through my life, both personally and professionally. His love and devotion to family has also been my first priority in life.

I taught my children love of God, family, and country because Papa modeled this in every word and action he took, from the garbage collector to the mayor. I use the phrase, “Thank you for my Freedom,” because Papa shared that what we have is all due to the valor of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

I always spoke of my father in every interview I conducted in my business because of my focus on honesty and integrity, being the best I could be, and striving to do that for the clients with autism that we
served. I put a face with those words and showed potential employees his picture on my phone to demonstrate who I am, what I stand for, and
what they could expect from me.

Because of Papa, I begin each day planning on how I can be a blessing to others, whether it is in my family of three children and 12 grandchildren or in my community. Papa taught all of us to never to do anything half-assed, and certainly do not ask someone to do something that you have not done or are not willing to do. Yes, I have definitely heeded these words and set the tone for high expectations in my family and work.

I sent him Father’s Day cards every year thanking him for being my Hero and for all the things he taught me and how he positively impacted and influenced me and my family. I reflect daily whether I am being the individual he would be proud of, so I can continue to honor this magnanimous man.

He was so humble, never seeking accolades for what he had accomplished, and I think of my community service work and how I can do in kind and represent him well because I strive to continue to be a representative of his deeds across every person I meet. Always faithful, through one generation and continuing on.

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Eight Decades – Giving Back to Neighborhood and Country

Eight Decades - Giving Back to Neighborhood and Country

Paul Rojas – a member of the Missouri Korean War Veterans Memorial Board – left high school early at the height of the Korean War, planning to “join up” as his brothers before him. Of four brothers, two were already drafted into the Army and one of them already sent to Korea.

Marine recruiters looked a bit askance at Rojas’ ID – a baptism certificate from Our Lady of Guadalupe with the date of birth a little smudged. But Rojas successfully signed up with the U.S. Navy and served 1952-1955, including serving on the USS Bataan – a heavy cruiser converted to an aircraft carrier supporting troops fighting on the Korean Peninsula. When the Korean War Armistice was signed in 1953, Rojas finished his enlistment serving in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands frontline of defense.

Born in 1934, Rojas grew up in Kansas City’s tight-knit Westside neighborhood. He recalls a church-centered neighborhood – the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish – that hasn’t changed much since his childhood. Rojas’ mother died by the time he was 5 years old and families in the neighborhood took the five Rojas brothers in so they wouldn’t be sent to an adoption organization and split up. The community was Rojas’ foundation for lifelong commitment to service and giving back to help others.
“I want to give as much back to my neighborhood that was good to me, and to my country that was good to me,” Rojas said.

In 2023 at the age of 88, Rojas serves as Chairman of the Board Emeritus of Guadalupe Centers, still helping to take care of the people in the neighborhood who took care of him and his family more than 80 years ago.

Following Navy service, Rojas and his wife focused on raising eight children. Rojas was active in the American Legion, founding nearby posts. Politics and elections intrigued the Korean War veteran, and he began working precincts in his westside neighborhood to educate people and inspire them to become politically active to increase Hispanic voices and representation. In 1972, Rojas became the first Latino elected to the Missouri General Assembly where he served until 1978.

More recently, the mayor appointed Rojas to the Kansas City, Mo. Planning Commission which approves most major development project proposals. He is ever watchful of gentrification adversely affecting his neighborhood.

For 10 years, Rojas has served on the Board of Directors of the Missouri Korean War Veterans Memorial that honors all Missourians who served in the Korean War, especially 900 Missourians who gave their lives in the war.

“For those who lost so much, we should continue to finish the memorial,” Rojas said as he looks forward to helping raise funds to add an impressive sculpture to the memorial. He hopes through the fundraising to educate the Kansas City community to the sacrifices Missourians made in the “Forgotten War.”

“Even the smallest children need to be told about the war and how grateful we are to those who served, and the importance of American involvement so it is not forgotten. We should not forget the war,” Rojas said. “Freedom is never free.”

Written By: Martha Walker

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Chris Cotten – Standing Sentry for Kansas City’s Veterans Memorials

Chris Cotten – Standing Sentry for Kansas City’s Veterans Memorials

Cotten-BriarcliffIn 2021, Chris Cotten returned to Kansas City, Mo. with 16 years of experience to become Director of Parks, entrusted to stand sentry for the Missouri Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington Square Park on Pershing Road near the World War I Memorial and museum.

Managing, protecting, and enhancing Kansas City’s parks for the future in the face of tight budgets challenges Cotten and his team. Cotton’s myriad experience includes rebuilding a city’s whole parks system after near total destruction in the 2011 Joplin, Mo. tornado where Cotten had just signed on as parks director. But responsibilities for overseeing 221 parks, 10 community centers, 48 fountains and more than 120 monuments and sculptures in Kansas City is daunting.

Addressing park ranger staffing shortages, some $200 million in deferred maintenance and resolving shelter for the homeless camping in parks are top priorities along with recruiting volunteers and private donations to make a real difference improving Kansas City Parks.

Cotten is not a veteran, but the memorials in Kansas City Parks are special – the National World I Memorial entrusted to Kansas City, the Vietnam War Memorial in Mill Creek Park, a World War II Memorial in Anita Gorman Park in Kansas City North, plus the state of Missouri Korean War Veterans Memorial in downtown Kansas City.

Cotten’s dad served in the Navy during the Korean War. His granddad served with the 2nd Armored Division in World War II. His son is now on active duty with the Coast Guard.

“Our veterans are special,” Cotten said. “Their service must be honored. I look forward to helping any way that I can as the Missouri Korean War Veterans Memorial organization begins work to add a significant sculpture in Washington Square Park honoring all who served in that war, especially the 900 Missourians who died in the Korean War.”

Written By: Martha Walker

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Eric Sullivan – A Debt of Honor

Eric Sullivan – A Debt of Honor

Persian Gulf War Veteran Eric Sullivan of Lee’s Summit, Mo., joined the Board of Directors of the Missouri Korean War Veterans Memorial in November 2022 to serve as treasurer as the Board prepares to launch a $1 million fundraising campaign in partnership with the State of Missouri.

The fundraising campaign will finish phase two of the state’s memorial, adding a large bronze sculpture of a U.S. Korean War service man with Korean refugees to the site at Washington Square Park at Pershing and Main streets in Kansas City, MO.

Sullivan currently serves as Lee’s Summit Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5789 Quartermaster (chief financial officer) and as VFW District 5 Adjutant. He recently served as Commander of the VFW Department of Missouri in 2020-2021.

Although Americans deployed to the Korean Peninsula more than 20 years before Sullivan was born, he’s committed to developing the memorial to remember those who served in the “Forgotten War.”

“These are really the things the VFW should be doing for Korean War vets,” Sullivan said. “We need to step into the breach and honor them. It’s the mission of the VFW to honor all our veterans, their families and serve our communities.”

The VFW is an organization of US war veterans who fought in campaigns in foreign theaters since 1899 and the Spanish-American War.

“We perpetuate the VFW honoring and serving all who served in foreign war deployments, tending our graves and our memorials,” Sullivan said. “We remember the sacrifices our veterans made, and hopefully we learn from their sacrifices.

“Serving to honor and remember our veterans is a debt of sorts for all of us as I see it,” Sullivan added. “We need to understand too, the Korean War is still not over.”

There are still more than 23,000 U.S. 8th Army, 7th Air Force, US naval forces and marine and special operations combat ready forces in Korea.

Ironically, Sullivan comes from a long line of aviators – an uncle who flew in the Korean War following service in World War II, including D-Day support. Sullivan’s Dad served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.

Persian Gulf War Veteran Eric Sullivan of Lee’s Summit, MO., joined the Board of Directors of the Missouri Korean War Veterans Memorial.But growing up on the shores of Lake Michigan, the ships beckoned. By 1989, Sullivan found himself a U.S. Navy signalman on board the USS John Young (DD-973) – a destroyer that served in the Persian Gulf War as the Tomahawk missile strike platform. The ship patrolled the Gulf intercepting myriad ships trafficking munitions.

Sullivan served 4 years in the Navy. Today he makes his home in Lee’s Summit where he is Metropolitan Community College-Longview  communications division chair and an English instructor.

Written By: Martha Walker

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Life’s Mission: Leadership and Service

Life’s Mission: Leadership and Service

For Missouri State Representative Dave Griffith of Jefferson City, serving as a Green Beret with the 8th Special Forces Group in classified and humanitarian deployments to Panama, Honduras and Vietnam began to shape the life he would lead.

“When we came back from Vietnam, we weren’t treated well,” Griffith said. “It really hurt. For a long time, it wasn’t acknowledged we’d served. But the tide changed with 9/11. People value veterans’ service.

“Korean vets suffered much the same as Vietnam vets,” Griffith said. “Those guys were true heroes. My cousin served. Talking to him, the conditions they faced were terrible.

“When I was asked to carry the torch to work for a Missouri Korean War Veterans Memorial, I was all in from the beginning,” Griffith said. “Monuments are something that stand forever. You can take your grandkids to the monument and say, ‘This is what it means.’ “

Griffith led successful Missouri House passage of Senate Bill 656 designating the Kansas City memorial as the official state Missouri Korean War Veterans Memorial.

“Service is what led me to where I am today,” Griffith reflected, “the leadership skills you learn and the focus on the mission at hand. For so many serving, separating from the military is hard and too many fail to find a new mission in life. I guess I’ve been a volunteer all my life.”

In 2010, Griffith made his first successful run for elected office, winning a position to serve on the Jefferson City Council and learning how government works on a microscale. By his second term however, the American Red Cross was calling.

For Griffith, the military skills he honed – leadership and commitment to seeing a mission through served him well as he took the reins as Executive Director for the American Red Cross in Missouri. He was again deployed to meet challenges – three hurricanes and two major floods.

“Sometimes it felt like we were ‘drinking from a fire hose.’  But we knew the work we did every day saved lives and had a tremendous impact for people,” Griffith said, recalling his deployment to super storm Sandy in New York. “We saw the magnitude of Sandy’s impact on New York, but we also saw a community coming together to take care of each other.”

In 2017, Griffith set his sights on serving in the Missouri Legislature.

“The first year, my wife and I knocked on 10,000 doors,” he said. “It was a stiff, three-way primary. I’ve never taken anything for granted.”

Griffith thought he could make a difference serving on Missouri’s House Veterans Committee. He became the first freshman legislator appointed to serve as chairman.

“Once you go into battle, it changes you,” Griffith said. “Veterans try to compartmentalize and go on with life.”

But Griffith knows Missouri veterans still need more. He chaired the summer’s Legislative Interim Committee focused on veteran suicide and mental health. Missouri ranks among the highest states experiencing veteran suicides.

“Long deployments and repeated deployment separations for Iraq and Afghanistan severely impacted family relations, meaningful jobs, holding on to a normal life,” Griffith said.

Griffith continues to push hard for sufficient budgets to meet needs, including support for the Missouri Veterans Commission. A personal priority is securing passage of a bill that would exempt service-disabled veterans in Missouri from personal property tax.

Griffith’s commitment continues. Veterans needs remain his priority.

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Mark Alford – A Voice for the MKWVM and Veterans’ Issues

Mark Alford – A Voice for the MKWVM and Veterans’ Issues

Mark Alford – A Voice for the MKWVM and Veterans’ IssuesAs a Kansas City Fox4 morning news anchor more than two decades, Mark Alford often served as an emcee or speaker informing and inspiring Kansas Citians at events throughout the city. And the Missouri Korean War Veterans Memorial at Washington Square Park in Kansas City benefited from Alford’s years of commitment supporting veterans.

“My father-in-law was a Korean War Veteran. I wanted to raise the service and sacrifices of Korean War veterans to their proper place of distinction,” Alford said of the many occasions he promoted the Missouri Korean War Veterans Memorial as it was built and dedicated in Kansas City.

“I met Jim Shultz in Kansas City, a marine veteran who fought at the Chosin Reservoir, Puson and for the liberation of Seoul. My father-in-law, Jim, and learning how many Missourians served in Korea, including more than 900 from the state of Missouri who paid the supreme sacrifice and gave their lives in defense of South Korea, inspired my interest,” Alford said. “I offered my services and became more aware and involved supporting the memorial and Missouri veterans.”

Alford said the military and military economy is very important to western Missouri with the Whiteman Air Force Base, home to US Air Force Global Strike Command and the B-2 Stealth Bomber near Warrensburg, and Fort Leonard Army training base in the Ozarks. He’s passionate about another issue too.

“My father-in-law came home with rheumatic fever,” Alford said. “The long waits veterans may face for health care is despicable. We must get back to portable health services and health care choices for veterans.”

Alford hopes to continue being a strong advocate for preserving the critical bases in Missouri and for other military issues, especially military health issues.

Written By: Martha Walker

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Honoring His Father, Serving His Community

Honoring His Father, Serving His Community

Staff Sgt. Robert Louis Kalkofen, now 90, served during the Korean War era as a logistics manager for the Marine Corps. His son, Bob Kalkofen, today serves as vice chair of the Missouri Korean War Veterans Memorial to honor his father’s service, and that of the thousands of other service men and woman who fought in the war.

“I never served in the military, myself, but I do consider myself to be a patriot,” said the younger Kalkofen. “I got involved in the memorial because I have a special connection to that branch of the service (Marines) and I wanted to support that. The Korean War veterans are important to us.”

Kalkofen, a retired funeral director, has been engaged with the downtown Kansas City memorial for 11 years, 10 of which as a member of the board of directors.

“I think the biggest reason for my involvement are the two plaques on the lawn, on the south side of the memorial, where there are 900 names of Missouri citizens killed in action in Korea. Those people made that sacrifice so that we, and the South Koreans, could remain free. We can’t let them fade into history without being named.”

The motto “Never forget the forgotten war” is a bittersweet reminder that the 34,000 Americans who died in Korea from 1950 to 1953 were not as revered as soldiers from other wars had been.

“World War II had ended, and then five years later the Korean conflict came to be,” Kalkofen said. “There was not the buildup there was for World War II. All the weapons, the machinery, even the uniforms, were left overs. There wasn’t the commitment to Korea that there was for
World War II.”

The sacrifices made were as real as any war, however, and is remembered annually in Kansas City on Flag Day. Speakers at the memorial, the only certified Korean War Veterans memorial in Missouri, typically come from the military. Volunteers participating come from service groups such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Sea Cadets, and Boy Scouts.

“The American Legion band plays every year and they’re wonderful. It’s a very patriotic ceremony,” Kalkofen said.

“People really should come out and see it.”

The Missouri Korean War Veterans Memorial is located in Washington Square Park, 174 East Pershing Rd., in downtown Kansas City, in the area of Union Station, Crown Center and the World War I museum.

Written By: Frank Cook

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A Lifetime of Service to Community & Country

A Lifetime of Service to Community & Country

In service to both community and country, Larry Phillips began when he joined the Army and served in Vietnam and Thailand. He continues that service today as vice chairman-elect of the Missouri Korean War Veterans Memorial in Kansas City.

Phillips, now retired from the Kansas City Transportation Authority, became involved in the memorial as a result of his membership in the local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

“A friend asked if I could help set up chairs at an event at the memorial, and I did. The VFW is a service organization that helps in the community and helping at the memorial seemed like a good way to do that. As time went on, I was just doing more and more things there.”

Phillips said he finds the memorial, located in downtown near Union Station, is always a good place to be. “It’s wonderful for the Korean War veterans to come and visit.”

Like many other hoping to erase the conflict’s reputation as the “forgotten war,” Phillips actually has no direct connection to the military campaign where nearly 34,000 Americans, including 900 Missourians, lost their lives. But the soldiers who fought there deserve to be remembered for their valor and sacrifice.

Among his roles at the memorial’s June 14, 2022, Annual Flag Day Flag Retirement ceremony, he was chosen to make a presentation about those who have been Prisoners of War or are Missing in Action (POW-MIA). According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, there remain more than 7,500
U.S. military still unaccounted for from the Korean War.

When Phillips retired from the military, he joined the municipal transportation authority, first as a bus driver, then moving to management, becoming a dispatcher, and eventually Assistant Superintendent of Transportation.

The Missouri Korean War Veterans Memorial, certified as the official memorial for the state of Missouri, is located in Washington Square Park, 174 East Pershing Rd., in downtown Kansas City, in the area of Union Station, Crown Center and the World War I museum.

 

Written By: Frank Cook

“The Korean War is the ‘forgotten war,’ and that means the men who fought there are forgotten soldiers. I didn’t want that to happen.”

No Forgotten War, No Forgotten Soldiers

NO FORGOTTEN WAR, NO FORGOTTEN SOLDIERS

“The Korean War is the ‘forgotten war,’ and that means the men who fought there are forgotten soldiers. I didn’t want that to happen.”

The words are those of Missouri State Representative Mike Haffner, a principal supporter of the Missouri Korean War Veterans Memorial in Kansas City, and the memorial’s campaign to become the official Korean veterans’ memorial for the state.

Although Haffner has neither relatives nor acquaintances who fought in the war, he was not unaware of the fighting that occurred from 1950 to 1953 in which nearly 34,000 Americans,
including 900 Missourians, lost their lives.

The Cass County resident is a retired Navy pilot who commanded a combat squadron of F/A-18 Hornets in the skies above New York in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He also is a
graduate of the Navel War College in Washington, D.C., and was a student in combat strategies and tactics.

“I learned how harsh and brutal that war was, and the sacrifices that were made,” Haffner said. “It was called the ‘Forgotten War.” But the soldiers should never be forgotten.

Haffner said he chose to become directly involved in the certification effort after being approached by State Senator Mike Cierpiot of Lee’s Summit. “Sen. Cierpiot knew I was military
and a combat veteran. He asked if I would help get certification passed in the House. I said absolutely yes.”

The war memorial and park were completed in 2011 and won certification from the legislature and governor’s office in 2020.

Haffner acknowledges that many facets of American history, including those commemorated by statues and monuments, are now being challenged nationwide. “We are in a phase of history
where we find problem with every aspect of society,” he said. “But it would be a profound mistake to forget the sacrifices that have been made.”

The war memorial’s governing board of directors expressed its appreciation to Haffner for his work on behalf of the monument.

“Representative Haffner’s leadership was vital to our efforts to achieve certification,” said Debra Shultz, chairwoman of the board. “Certifications means we can host funding raising activities for the purpose of educating the public. Hopefully, we’ll be able to draw more attention to the memorial and more visitors to Kansas City.”

The Missouri Korean War Veterans Memorial is located in Washington Square Park, 174 East Pershing Rd., in downtown Kansas City, in the area of Union Station, Crown Center and the
World War I museum.

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The Memorial – Thanks Senator Mike Cierpiot

The Missouri Korean War Veterans Memorial in downtown Kansas City owes a debt of gratitude to Missouri State Senator Mike Cierpiot, a Lee’s Summit, MO., legislator and businessman who led the effort to have the memorial named the official Korean War memorial for the state.The Missouri Korean War Veterans Memorial in downtown Kansas City owes a debt of gratitude to Missouri State Senator Mike Cierpiot, a Lee’s Summit, MO., legislator and businessman who led the effort to have the memorial named the official Korean War memorial for the state.

Cierpiot’s involvement came through a friend-of-a-friend who urged the senator to take up the challenge of having the memorial certified as the official state tribute to the 900 Missourians who died in Korea from 1950 to 1953.

To make that recognition happen, an act of the state legislature was necessary.

“There are a number of Korean War memorials around the state – one in St. Louis and other places – but most of those are dedicated to the men in their particular counties who died in the war,” Cierpiot said. “The only memorial that lists all the Missourians who died is here in Kansas City. We wanted to acknowledge that.”

While construction on the memorial and park was completed in 2011, certification didn’t come until several years later at the urging of the memorial’s board of directors.

Asking the legislature to designate the Kansas City memorial as the official state site (Senate Bill 656) was “a pretty easy lift,” Cierpiot said, with little opposition. The certification was approved in 2020.

“Senator Cierpiot’s leadership was crucial to the memorial’s recognition,” said Debra Shultz, chairman of the memorial. “The certification will really allow us to honor the Missourians and all the Americans, and Koreans, who gave up their lives for freedom.”

Cierpiot said that, like many others, he had not been aware of the memorial garden.

“It’s really quite an impressive thing,” he said. “It’s a shame it’s not better known.”

Construction of the memorial was funded by private donations on land donated by the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department. The state designation will help the non-profit by allowing it to apply for specialized grants. Money raised will be used for increased sculpturing at the site,
and to enhance awareness of the memorial and urge visitors to include the park when touring Kansas City.

The memorial is located in Washington Square Park, 174 East Pershing Rd., in downtown Kansas City, in the area of Union Station, Crown Center and the World War I museum.

 

Author: Frank Cook

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