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Soldier re-enlists on Bridge of No Return

Capt. Patrick Bradley, left, re-enlists Spc. Duane Shaw on the Bridge of No Return, about 30 feet from North Korea on Thursday. The bridge is where tens of thousands of prisoners of war and families crossed following the Korean War armistice in 1953, never to return.

ERIK SLAVIN / S&S

By ERIK SLAVIN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 1, 2008

DEMILITARIZED ZONE, Korea — Of the many U.S. Army soldiers who have re-enlisted, only a few can say they did so with the enemy in viewing distance of the ceremony.

On Thursday, Spc. Duane Shaw renewed his oath on the Bridge of No Return — within feet of the Military Demarcation Line that separates the two Koreas, and about 50 yards from a North Korean guard house.

Shaw, a chemical operations specialist by trade, works in the arms room for the United Nations Command Security Battalion at Camp Bonifas.

"He’s always willing to go the extra mile to get things done," said Staff Sgt. Travis Pheanis, one of Shaw’s supervisors.

Shaw’s roughly 40-soldier contingent is the last American detail based at the Demilitarized Zone. The unit provides security for the U.N. Command Military Armistice Commission and also escorts visitors on tours to Conference Row.

"This duty station will always stick out in my mind," Shaw said following the ceremony Thursday. "There’s just so much history behind it."

The Bridge of No Return is where Korean prisoners of war crossed following the signing of the Korean War armistice in 1953.

The bridge got its name because Koreans were allowed to remain in the country of their captivity or cross the bridge. The crossing, however, meant they could never return.

The bridge is also the site of the 1976 ax murder incident, when Capt. Arthur Bonifas and 1st Lt. Mark Barrett were killed by ax-wielding North Korean soldiers during a tree-trimming operation.

E-mail Erik Slavin at: slavine@pstripes.osd.mil