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Marker honors Korean War veterans

Monument includes names of nearly 120 casualties from Valley

Staff photo / Bob Coupland Dana Uber of Mineral Ridge, Yeoman First Class, plays “taps” Sunday during the dedication of a new Korean Defense Monument at the Korean War Memorial in Austintown. The ceremony included placement of wreaths and roses at the marker and reading of nearly 120 Korean War veteran casualties from Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties.

AUSTINTOWN — A new marker commemorating all military members who have served in Korea since the Korean Armistice was unveiled Sunday at the Korean War Memorial at Austintown Veterans Park.

A special Korean War and Korean Defense veterans memorial ceremony and laying of the roses was hosted by the Korean War Veteran Association of Mahoning Valley Chapter 137. A dedication of the Korean Defense Veterans Monument also took place.

The ceremony, which was attended by more than 30 people, included reading the names of nearly 120 service people from Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties who were casualties of the Korean War.

Mike Ekoniak Jr., commander of Chapter 137 who served in Korea in 1967 and 1968, said the Korean War lasted from June 1950 to July 1953 and resulted in the deaths of more than 40,000 U.S. service people as well as those who went missing.

‘As of today, more than 7,500 U.S. troops are still missing. Every year there are less and less veterans of the Korean War,” Ekoniak said, noting the average age of Korean War veterans still living is 88.

He said the memorial was erected so the 119 service people who served during the Korean Conflict would not be forgotten.

Ekoniak said it was 72 years ago this week when the Korean War began. In July, it will be the 69th year since the signing of the armistice that halted the war.

He said the new marker is dedicated to those who have served in Korea from 1953 to the present who have been killed in active combat.

Bob McCullough, the treasurer for the Ohio Korean War Veterans Association, was given the honor of laying the roses on the new marker.

Austintown Trustee Robert Santos, a Marine Corps veteran for 11 years, said he credits the generation of service people before him as the reason he also served the nation.

“You all sacrificed your lives for the freedoms of the next generation. Those who have served or are serving our nation are all acts of heroism. You all put your lives on the line to save others. You had dedication and honor for what you did. I appreciate the honor to come here and speak today and to honor all of you,” Santos said.

He said he enlisted in the Marine Corps at age 22 and it changed his life and gave him a deeper appreciation for those who have served before him.

Frank Sloat, Chapter 137 chaplain, said its means a lot to the veterans for family, friends and others to show their support.

Jeff Vrabel Jr. of Poland, who is the detachment chaplain for the Sons of the American Legion Mahoning Valley Inc. Squadron 15, said his grandfather Joe Vrabel was among those instrumental in getting sections of the Korean War memorial established in Austintown.

“My grandfather was with one of the last guys to be killed in the Korean War. Sgt. Harold Cross was with my grandfather when the war was ending and a shell came in and killed Harold. They were best buddies during the war,” Vrabel said.

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