By Staff Sgt. Felicia Jagdatt, 3rd BCT, 1st AD Public Affairs:
(El Paso, Texas, Dec. 7, 2017)
Every year, the 2nd Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, hosts a burning of the colors ceremony to honor those who served in the Battle of Kunu-Ri in the Korean War.
It serves to keep the traditions of the unit alive and meaningful, and this year they held it at Bulldog Field here Nov. 30.
“Today, as in 1950 and 1861, the Soldiers, noncommissioned officers and officers of the 2nd Engineer Battalion are building that toughness, the grit, needed to win at all costs,” said Lt. Col. Michael Loftus, commander, 2nd Eng. Bn., 3rd BCT, 1st AD. “This battalion, and the men and women who have the privilege to serve in it, have been, are and will always be, second to none.”
The battalion’s role in the Korean War was to hold back Chinese forces while other U.S. units escaped. They were able to hold their position and keep the opposition back until they ran out of ammunition and lost communication with other units.
The battalion commander, Lt. Col. Alarich Zacherle, made the decision to burn the colors rather than allow Chinese forces to capture them.
“The situation, faced many times during the Korean War, is almost unimaginable today,” Loftus said. “But these difficult decisions and sacrifices saved so many more – an entire U.S. Army division and allies – so that they could fight another day.”
Soldiers who served in the battle 67 years ago attend this ceremony annually. Retired Sgt. 1st Class Edward T. Smith, a veteran of the Battle of Kunu-Ri and subsequent prisoner of war, said he “wouldn’t miss it on a bet.”
Watching the reenactment reminded Smith of what it was like when he was there, in the action.
“You get little tingles,” Smith said. “Especially when they start blowing whistles and everything because that’s exactly what happened. I think I was one of the two who was a POW here, and it shakes you up a little bit when you think about it all.”
The Soldiers who participated in the reenactment were in awe of the significance of the battle and of the people who served in it.
“Lt. Col. Loftus pulled us aside during one of the rehearsals and said, ‘They’re going to be here,’” said Pvt. Reece Dew, an intelligence analyst assigned to the battalion who acted as retired Maj. Arden Rowley, a POW, in the reenactment. “I thought ‘Wow, I don’t know what to say. That’s crazy to actually have them here.’”
It is up to the Soldiers who participated in the reenactment and those who watched in the audience to remember what happened many years ago and to pass on the traditions, said 1st Lt. Aaron Walters, a maintenance platoon leader assigned to the battalion.
For new Soldiers, it connects them to their history and gives them something to be proud of, Loftus said. He wants Soldiers to know the battalion has a long lineage and they are a part of something important.
“Telling the story is important, and definitely honoring the veterans who served while having their stories live on,” Walters said.