A mourner places flowers at a memorial on Oct. 31, 2022, for 156 people killed during Halloween festivities in Itaewon, South Korea.

A mourner places flowers at a memorial on Oct. 31, 2022, for 156 people killed during Halloween festivities in Itaewon, South Korea. (David Choi/Stars and Stripes)

CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — The top general in South Korea in a letter Friday to the commander of U.S. Forces Korea thanked American troops who rescued victims trapped in the Itaewon crowd surge that killed 156 people.

Gen. Kim Seung Kyum, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed his “profound gratitude” toward the U.S. service members “for their act of valor in saving the lives of 30 Korean civilians” trapped in the fatal surge Oct. 29 in Seoul, according to the letter to U.S. Army Gen. Paul LaCamera posted on USFK’s Facebook page Thursday.

Kim’s letter does not identify the soldiers but states they all “are the ultimate embodiments of the word ‘hero’ and complete personifications of the spirit of our [South Korea]-U.S. alliance.”

Jarmil Taylor, Dane Beathard and Jerome Augusta, three soldiers stationed in Camp Casey, South Korea, told Agence France-Presse that they pulled people from the crowd after becoming aware of the danger, according to an Oct. 30 report from the news outlet.

Four days later, South Korea’s Yonhap News reported that an unidentified South Korean man recognized the three Americans. One of the soldiers, according to Yonhap, “rescued him from the crowd as if pulling radishes from a field.”

“While we continue to receive heartbreaking news from the incident, our people are deeply moved by the heroic tales of these USFK service members,” Kim said in the letter. “The citizens who were rescued by these gentlemen are calling them lifesavers, and widespread praise from our citizens are sweeping our nation.”

The crowd of revelers surged into a narrow, sloping alley during Halloween festivities in a nightlife district of the city. Twenty-six of the victims were foreigners, including two Americans. At least 33 people are still considered seriously injured, according to a Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters news release Thursday.

U.S. military police stationed in nearby Yongsan Garrison were also at the scene providing first aid and assisting with crowd control, USFK spokesman Wesley Hayes previously told Stars and Stripes.

“Such selfless sacrifice significantly decreased casualties, and their service will forever be etched in the hearts of the Korean people in the name of the ... alliance,” Kim added.

USFK, which is responsible for roughly 28,500 troops in South Korea, offered its condolences to “everyone impacted by last night’s tragic event in Seoul,” according to an Oct. 30 statement from the command.

“The Itaewon community has opened its arms to us for many years and is part of the reason our alliance is so strong,” according to the USFK statement. “During this time of grief, we will be there for you just as you have been there for us.”

David Choi is based in South Korea and reports on the U.S. military and foreign policy. He served in the U.S. Army and California Army National Guard. He graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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