As Bill Thompson and Jim Johnson unveiled a memorial to members of the 194th Tank Battalion who were called to duty during the Korean War, Charles Extrand couldn't help but feel a little gratified.
"We had some esprit in this unit," said Extrand, who, like Thompson and Johnson, was one of the 114 members of the Brainerd-based Army National Guard unit that was activated for the Korean War on Jan. 14, 1951. "It's a dedication for the people who aren't here, in remembrance to them."
More than 100 people, including about 20 Korean War veterans, braved the heat and humidity Sunday at the Brainerd National Guard Armory to witness the dedication of the Korean War plaque. The plaque, placed in front of the tanks outside the armory, stood about six feet from another memorial dedicated to the members of the 194th Tank Battalion who had served 10 years before in World War II and were part of the Bataan Death March.
Guest speaker and former 194th member Ret. Brig. Gen. Arthur Ludwig said the 194th in the early 1950s was made up of people from all walks of life, and the only thing they had in common was the fact they were guardsmen. That all changed with the stroke of a pen in 1951, when the unit was activated for the Korean War.
"It was an event that would forever change who we were," said Ludwig. "We became full-time soldiers."
Unlike the 194th of World War II, the members who served during the Korean War didn't serve together, said Ludwig. Some members went to Korea, some to classrooms and some to help train the influx of Army enlistees. Still, their contribution remains.
"I'll always be proud to be a member of the 194th and of the National Guard," said Ludwig.
Also speaking Sunday were Rep. Dale Walz, R-Brainerd; Sen. Paul Koering, R-Fort Ripley; Brainerd Mayor James Wallin; and Father Vincent Arimond, who from 1956-1963 volunteered as the 194th's chaplain.
Walz, whose father was a Korean War veteran, said such a commemoration was long overdue.
"You served your country, you served with pride and you served with patriotism," said Walz.
Koering thanked the members of the 194th on behalf of the 74,000 people he represents in central Minnesota.
"Thank you all very, very much. I appreciate your service," said Koering.
The memorial dedication capped off a day of events held to commemorate the members of the 194th who served during the Korean War. The day started at Camp Ripley with a live fire tank demonstration, and was followed with a picnic at the armory.
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