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At Dabudong battlefield monument near Waegwan, South Korea, soldiers and college students listen as a monument official uses a glass-encased model of the battle area to explain how South Korean and U.S. troops prevented North Korean invasion forces from breaking through to Daegu in 1950, in the Korean War's early months.
At Dabudong battlefield monument near Waegwan, South Korea, soldiers and college students listen as a monument official uses a glass-encased model of the battle area to explain how South Korean and U.S. troops prevented North Korean invasion forces from breaking through to Daegu in 1950, in the Korean War's early months. (Franklin Fisher / S&S)

DAEGU, South Korea — Until Tuesday night, Pfc. Bernard Lewis of the Bronx never had eaten snails or witnessed the near-acrobatic flash of a traditional Korean dance performance.

Nor had he met a South Korean military hero.

But that changed earlier this week when he and other U.S. soldiers in Daegu took part in a two-day event aimed at promoting the U.S.-South Korea military alliance and friendship between the two countries.

The Korean-American Partnership Association hosted the event in conjunction with the U.S. Army’s 19th Theater Support Command in Daegu. It was held one day after the 52nd anniversary of the armistice ending the 1950-53 Korean War.

Fifty-one U.S. and South Korean soldiers were guests for what KAPA called its first Korean-American Alliance and Friendship Tour.

In brief remarks during dinner, KAPA president Lee Yoon-sok recounted the war’s major events, beginning with North Korea’s June 25 invasion thrust.

“After three years of war … the truce was signed at last,” Lee said. “Today, we sponsored this event to honor the dead and wounded” while also honoring the soldiers whose units chose them to take part in the program and “to remind us all of the importance of freedom and peace.”

KAPA hosted a Tuesday night dinner and other key events at the GS Plaza Hotel, where the servicemembers were overnight guests. Also taking part were 15 area South Korean college students and two American college students visiting South Korea for the summer.

Tuesday, the soldiers and students toured two local factories for a look at Daegu’s textile industry. That evening, they heard a lecture on the Korean War from retired South Korean Gen. Paik Sun-yup. Paik is his nation’s most prominent Korean War military hero, a former chairman of its joint chiefs of staff and a former ambassador to Taiwan, France and other countries.

Wednesday’s tours included a stop at the Dabudong battle monument and its view of the steep ridges and hilltops where South Korean and U.S. forces won a desperate battle to block the North Koreans from capturing Daegu in 1950.

One highlight for many of the soldiers came during Tuesday’s steak and lobster dinner, when Daegu’s Onuri dance troupe — including some small children — performed traditional Korean dance, leaping and swirling in traditional costumes while accompanying themselves on gongs, cymbals and drums.

Lewis, a motor pool clerk with the 19th TSC, said he’s been in South Korea 18 months “and that was my first time seeing anything like that. … I ate snail for the first time and … talking to Gen. Paik, that right there is something I’ll always remember — someone of his reputation, shook his hand … .”

“What I liked about it,” Pvt. Barbara Ferrer, a vehicle mechanic with the 20th Support Group, said of the program, “was the Koreans appreciated the Americans” for serving in South Korea. “They made me to remember what my mission is, what’s my purpose in being here. They emphasized it.”

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