GORE BAY—John Gridley, a Gore Bay resident and a veteran of the Korean War, has been recognized for his efforts by the Korean Embassy in Ottawa with an ‘Ambassador For Peace’ proclamation and medal.
“I was surprised that after 60 years I would receive this award, but it certainly is nice to be recognized like this,” said Mr. Gridley.
In an August 7, 2014 letter to Mr. Gridley from Cho Hee-yong, Ambassador of the Embassy of the Republic of Korea (in Ottawa), Mr. Hee-young writes, “As we mark the 64th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War, I am very honoured on behalf of the people and the Government of the Republic of Korea to present Korea’s ‘Ambassador for Peace’ medal as a special token of our sincere and enduring appreciation for the service you performed during the Korean War.”
“We Koreans have never forgotten the great legacy of the 27,000 Canadians who fought shoulder to shoulder with us and the brave 516 who made the ultimate sacrifice. In fact, more than 60 years later, the memory of the Korean War veteran’s courage on the Korean Peninsula still resonates in the hearts and minds of the Korean people.”
“Thanks to you, Korea has been able to flourish as a democratic and prosperous nation,” the letter continues. “Not only that, you have played an important role forging a strong bond between our two peoples, which we continue to enjoy today. There is no doubt that our ‘Special Partnership’ would not have been possible without the extraordinary contributions of the Korean War veterans. Indeed, you can take great pride knowing that this service gave Koreans the greatest gift of all, the gift of freedom, peace and hope. I wish you great happiness and may you have continued good health so that you may join Koreans in one day witnessing the foundation of a democratically unified Korea.”
At the age of 19, John Gridley, “was a private in the infantry second battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment, starting in 1950 and a member of the Canadian Forces for eight years,” he told the Recorder.
Mr. Gridley started out in Petawawa for basic training in the fall of 1950 and that October went to Fort Lewis, in Washington State, for advanced training. Then he went to Korea.
“I thought this was alright in going to Korea, but after I got there I had to wonder what I had got myself into,” he told the Recorder. “I was fighting for Canada and against the Communists, fighting against the Communist movement. Canada belonged to the United Nations and fought alongside the US and Britain and other countries. We were the first battalion; Britain, Australia and Canada Commonwealth Division and fought along with the Americans.”
Meanwhile, “the Russians were helping the North Koreans and the Chinese and their weapons had the hammer and sickle on them,” Mr. Gridley told the Recorder.
Mr. Gridley pointed out, “when we got home, a lot of people still didn’t know where Korea was; the Americans downplayed the war and when we got home people would say oh you fought in a police action. But I can tell you it wasn’t a police action—it was all out war.”
“Canada lost 516 soldiers and around 1,700 soldiers were wounded,” said Mr. Gridley. “The Americans and the British also lost a lot of soldiers with many wounded as well.”
“No, I didn’t get injured in Korea. I was lucky but came close a couple of times to getting it,” said Mr. Gridley.
When he returned to Canada, Mr. Gridley took a paratrooper course and became part of the ‘Jump Batallion.’ “After five jumps I qualified to get my wings. We were prepared to help in a war if anything happened we would jump out of a plane and could get in behind the enemy lines.”
“I trained in London at the original Royal Canadian Regiment training headquarters,” (and after getting married in between assignments) from there “in October 1953 we shipped out to Germany for two years, as part of the Cold War exercise,” said Mr. Gridley. “We were there and ready in case anything happened.”
“I don’t think there are many Korean War veterans left on the Island,” added Mr. Gridley.
The Ambassador for Peace official proclamation presented to Mr. Gridley, and sent by Park, Sung Choon, Minister of Patriots and Veterans Affairs Republic of Korea and Park, Se Hwan, Chairman of the Korean Veterans Association Republic of Korea reads, “it is a great honour and pleasure to express the everlasting gratitude of the Republic of Korea and our people for the service you and your countrymen have performed in restoring and preserving our freedom and democracy.”
“We cherish in our hearts the memory of your boundless sacrifices in helping us re-establish our Free Nation. In grateful recognition of your dedicated contributions, it is our privilege to proclaim you an Ambassador for Peace with every good wish of people of the Republic of Korea. Let each of us reaffirm our mutual respect and friendship that they may endure for generations to come.”