Ceremony Honors Veterans from Korean War, Normandy; about 150 Veterans Receive Recognition for Their Service 50 Years and More Ago

Article excerpt

Byline: Jessie-Lynne Kerr, The Times-Union

Anthony Balsamo is a big man whose work as senior bailiff at Jacksonville's traffic court sometimes means asserting himself.

But the 74-year-old was left speechless and brimming with tears Monday.

Fifty years after the end of the Korean War, in which Balsamo fought as a young soldier, he was among 138 people from Northeast Florida presented with a medal provided by the Republic of Korea to U.S. veterans.

He stood proudly before family members and other veterans gathered at Mayport Naval Station as U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw presented the medal and he was photographed -- flanked by Crenshaw and Rear Adm. Annette E. Brown, commander of the Navy Region Southeast.

In addition to the Korean War veterans, Crenshaw presented medals to more than a dozen men who risked their lives for freedom by participating in the Normandy invasion, which began June 6, 1944. They received the Normandy Medal of the Jubilee of Liberty, originally presented to those D-Day veterans who returned to France for the 50th anniversary of the event.

"Your wars were separated by a mere six years," Crenshaw told the veterans, "but they were fought for the cause of freedom by Americans who put themselves in harm's way for the benefit of all mankind."

Crenshaw drew similarities between today's war on terrorism and World War II and the Korean War. Winston Churchill, he said, called World War II the "unnecessary war" because France, Great Britain and the United States failed to recognize the signs of evil and to act while Hitler and the Nazis were weak.

"Today's war on terrorism began with our inability to fully comprehend that a people could harbor such hatred against Americans that they would seek to kill thousands of American civilians."

The Korean War may have been the last conflict to use conventional strategies, tactics and weapons, Crenshaw said, but it was the first salvo against communism. He added that 50 years later, the United States again is facing threats from North Korea. …

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