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>> Hello, everybody, from Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. So you thought that I would go after July 27th. Not really. I’m here in this beautiful island to honor Virgin Islanders who went to fight in Korea. So we just laid a wreath here, and this is the Franklin D Roosevelt Veterans Memorial Park, and while it does not have a Korean War memorial yet, it has a veterans memorial honoring veterans from all five branches. We, of course, laid the wreath here, and I am going to take you to some of my Virgin Islander grandpas, so come on over. Of course, that is the Virgin Islands’ flag, and behind me is the government building. So just to give you a history background, Virgin Islands became part of the U.S. territories in 1917 because, of course, America wanted to ensure that the Caribbean was not going to be under German influence. And it’s a little bit … If you really think, it’s amazing that shortly after Virgin Islanders fought in the Korean War for a country, their newly adopted country, for a country that they didn’t know, Korea. And so here we … Look at this. The Lieutenant Governor was here. Thank you, Lieutenant Governor Potter, who was a veteran himself. Congresswoman …
>> West. West.
>> Representative was here. She came to represent. But … And we just ended the ceremony, so they’re eating lunch, and they’re watching a video about the Korean War. But … Grandpa, can you say hello to the people? To say … These are my grandpas, Virgin Islander grandpas. My grandpa, Larry. Oh, Grandpa Aubrey, perfect!
[ Chatter ]
Well, he says, “Ya,” but …
>> Yeah. Yeah.
>> So Grandpa Aubrey is probably one of the most knowledgeable Korean War veterans that I’ve met and had the honor to meet, and he’s a Virgin Islander. However, he fought with the Borinqueneers. Of course, you all know by then …
>> I assisted them.
>> Yes. You assisted them, but he also has a Congressional Gold Medal because, of course, the Borinqueneers were at war …
>> Exactly. And could you just as a Virgin Islanders …
>> To have participated in this effort to defend freedom, not just for Korea, but halted to communism, spread of communism around the world. What does it mean? What does it mean to you after almost 70 years for me to come here and thank you and just seeing your colleagues?
>> Well, it’s built a different level. What we did, maybe how the people of color in the military to be better treated because they saw that we had discipline. We could follow orders. We were well trained. I was the first person of color accepted to the Southeastern Signal School in Fort Gordon, Georgia, in 1952, and it was very intense course. It was the longest in the [INAUDIBLE] course at the time because 34 weeks long. I was perfectly trained in every type of communication of that time to operate, to repair and restore, and that’s what I did in Korea to help you people.
>> I’m not surprised because he is extremely intelligent, and I’m really serious.
>> I’m just blessed.
>> No. Well, you are.
>> The father has blessed me so much.
>> You are blessed with intelligence, and so thank you for making it … coming here, not just today, but to share with me the stories so that I could pass it on and share with other people, and so that your legacy is not forgotten.
>> Yeah. I always try to remember those who were with me and [INAUDIBLE] that didn’t come home and those who came home and were disregarded and never helped and just fell by the sidelines, many of my friends and [INAUDIBLE]. Nobody helped them. I suppose that’s the cold Korean War. I was blessed. I never killed anyone. I was trained. I helped my fellow men as much as I could, and I loved the military. I loved it. I was drafted, and then I re-enlisted for 3 years.
>> That’s amazing.
>> And it made my life great.
>> That’s amazing.
>> I will never say anything about the military.
>> Mm. Well …
>> Some people have different ideas. Some people have probably a difficult time, but I did, but I survived it. I have a grandson who is in the Marines right now.
>> And I told him …
>> Semper Fi.
>> … if he’s going to be successful, “You must listen, learn and improvise,” and at times he must become a chameleon.
>> Mm, that’s very good advice, everybody. But just want to stop here and say that he mentioned those who didn’t come home like he did, and that is 78. Okay?
>> But those who came home were never treated well, many, many.
>> We just learned today … I learned today that 700 and almost 90 went from Virgin Islands.
>> 1950, the population here was 26,700. That’s like …
>> Now remember this was from the three Virgin Islands, not only St. Thomas.
>> Oh, yes. Three islands: St. Thomas …
>> St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John.
>> And so I’ll be in St. Croix tomorrow.
>> I think the most that actually never came home are from St. Croix.
>> Mm, I’ll be going tomorrow.
>> Again, they used them as cannon fodder. You know what that phrase means?
>> Mm-mm. What does that mean?
>> Cannon fodder is when a leader in the military just wants … He needs someone to die to protect more people.
>> And they do that quite often. That’s what they did with the 65th Infantry. That’s what McArthur did with the 65th Infantry. He use it as a blocking unit and without just sacrificing them to save maybe the [INAUDIBLE] at the time because of the Korean. These are things that people never talk about.
>> And I do want to just say that, that is why war is something …
>> … senseless, and we need to continue to defend people. Ooh, it’s raining, so I’m going to go. I want you to shelter, okay? Thank you so much.
>> You do that. I don’t want you to melt.
>> It’s kind of weird because it’s hot, and it’s raining, and it’s very hot, and it’s raining. But I do want to end with … There’s some Caribbean food back there, and I’m hungry, so I’ll be eating that soon. However … Hey. Where are your two other handsome cousins?
>> Over there. Brothers.
>> Yes. Okay.
>> They get some food also.
>> Okay. Come, come. Okay. Name, please.
>> My name is Bubba Benjamin.
[ Chatter ]
>> Ooh, Benjamins. And?
>> Hello. I’m Marcene Benjamin.
>> Okay. Where’s the other Benjamin?
>> One more Benjamin missing.
>> Why are you guys here? Can you just start with that? So we’re going to come a little closer because it’s so loud back there.
>> We came to support our grandfather.
>> Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
>> Well, we’ll go over there only because we don’t to block the food. Okay. You came to support your grandpa. Who’s your grandfather?
>> My grandfather is [INAUDIBLE].
>> Okay. Can you honor him by explaining to them why he was here?
>> Well, he fought in Korean War.
>> He fought in the Korean War.
>> He wasn’t even around then. You know what I’m saying?
>> We wasn’t even a thought or anything.
>> He fought for us, and we wasn’t even in existence yet because my mom and dad go back home. He was all the way across the world fighting for America.
>> I know. That’s kind of cool. Do you know … So I called him my grandpa. You heard, right? So technically we’re cousins. Right? Yeah. So I have my new … Ooh. Did you guys do this, red, white and blue?
>> Well, I did it.
>> They’re very patriotic. Red, white and blue. Yeah.
>> It wasn’t planned but …
>> My Benjamin cousins. Yes. So thank you for your grandfather’s service, and I hope that you carry for the rest of your life that pride that he served and helped somebody like me to come in existence, not only you, but me, right, and all the Korean people, and we’re very grateful for your grandfather’s service. So I would be remiss if we didn’t show you Mr. Benjamin, so I’m going to take you to him. He doesn’t know I’m coming. Okay. It’s really cool that he has his entire family rolled with him to honor him. Grandpa? Can you just come and wave? Come this way. Sorry to disturb you while you’re eating, but I wanted everybody to see your handsome face because your grandsons just talked about your service in the war and how proud they are.
>> Mm. But I am so glad that you made it back, that you are here, and you have this beautiful family that you raised, who love you and who respect you and are so proud of you as I am grateful to you, so thank you.
[ Chatter ]
And last but not least, look at this. “Proudly we served Virgin Islander Veterans of the Korean War.” Isn’t that awesome? So I just would like to say … I’m going to go this way. I would like to show everybody, ta-da. And give a shout-out to our commander from the American Legion [INAUDIBLE] 90, fearless leader. She called the Lieutenant Governor her younger brother. I said, “Oh, my god. I thought you’re his younger sister.” She looks really good. I’m going to later ask her for her secret, how to keep young.
>> Stay happy.
>> Stay happy. I think so too. And I’m staying grateful and happy. Yeah. I’m just so grateful to be here. That Alpine Security, [INAUDIBLE] Charles giving shout-out over there. I’m just so proud that you have organized and brought all of us here together on this day so that we could remember the Forgotten War and to honor the veterans who are sometimes too often not honored and thanked enough. So again, it was to my surprise I learned that there were a few more veterans in Virgin Islands. Not only 78 died. And that’s … Not to compare numbers, that’s more than Nevada and Delaware. So people back in the states, we sometimes forget the sacrifices made by the people in the U.S. territories. And so again, I am grateful to you. I’m grateful to Alpine Securities. I’m grateful to the American Legion Post and to the government of U.S. Virgin Islands for taking care of the grandpas. I am hoping that there will be a memorial, monument, dedicated at the veterans park to honor their service. So, Shumaro, this has been now an extension of my fantasy 70-plus, 70, 90-day journey across America because it’s my 92nd day, but the journey continued because the Korean War veterans must be remembered forever. So remember727.org. See you tomorrow. Bye.
[ Chatter ]
>> Your name.
>> My name is Clint Denny, Woodrow F. Clint Denny Junior. You want date of birth?
>> Five May 1936.
>> And when did you volunteer?
>> I volunteered for the Army in 1954, and I was drafted in 1955.
>> I was sent back to school. I left school in ’54 after 12th grade for going into the army, and our recruiter was a local person that knows everybody, so he sent me back.
>> Why did you volunteer?
>> I had a problem with teacher. That’s what we used to do. If you have a problem with the teacher or the school, you go to the Army. That’s what they used to do. That was a popular thing.
>> But you didn’t end up going to war, thank goodness, right? So can you tell us a little bit about where you were stationed?
>> Yes, I was stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas. I’d been there for 2 years. They wouldn’t allow me to go overseas.
>> Why not?
>> Because of my educational background. They needed people in my field because during the Korean War, I don’t think they were ready to fight a war in Korea, so they grabbed what they had. So they had a lot of vacant positions that have to be filled. The military didn’t have the time to send anyone to school because those schools are 8 and 10 and 12 weeks. In the meantime, those companies are in limbo. So if you have a background that could suit their purpose, they hold you.
>> So what were you trained in?
>> Administration, bookkeeping, typing, shorthand, that kind of thing.
>> But you must have known some people who went to Korea in the States, right?
>> No, after … No, you see, they split us up. I don’t see you today, I don’t see you for the next 3 years. I don’t know where they went. I really don’t know.
>> Did you know he served in Korea?
>> That he served in Korea?
>> I didn’t. Did you? No. That’s the wrong person. Uncle Sam held us back.
>> I didn’t serve in Korea. I served during the Korean War, but I spent all my time in Germany.
>> Oh, boy, we would have been close. I wanted to go to Germany, and I wanted to go. I was infantry, and I wanted to go. So what they did, they held me back in the States and changed my occupational specialty number to administration. I tried many times, and I never got out.
>> I finished my obligation in there, and then I came out.
I went to the National Guard. There was no break in service, and I retired in 19 [INAUDIBLE] 35 years, that was it.
>> 1955, you went to states like Kansas. That’s a lot of …
>> That’s during a time when America was still growing, and we were experiencing a lot of, let’s just say, challenges.
>> And we still haven’t solved the Korean War crisis yet.
>> Yeah. What do you feel about that?
[ Chatter ]
>> What do you feel about that? It’s probably one of the longest wars.
>> Well, we are at war with Korea mentally.
>> Yeah, we are because there’s no peace treaty. We still have Kim Korea to worry about. You know that.
>> What do you feel about the current peace process right now?
>> No. I don’t like it. I don’t like it. It’s leading to problems.
>> It will lead to a lot of problems. I think as a nation, we’re asking for too much from the enemy, and when we do ask, there’s nobody to monitor anything. I can tell you, yes, I want to see it, but that don’t mean they’re doing it. Look what happened to Iran. They’ve been breaking these treaties all the time.
>> How about bringing back the remains?
>> Oh, well, I know that started already. They brought in about 56 bodies here this week, and we’re not even sure that they’re all our people. We’re not even sure about that, but they brought in some of them. That’s a long time, man. That’s a long time, man.
>> Eight thousand.
>> Well, I wouldn’t even bother with that. It’s a waste of time. You lost your life. You lost your life. It’s so long.
>> But I’ve met some families, and they’re still waiting.
>> Yeah, I know. I know. They’re still waiting for proof. Are they getting the right proof?
>> Not even about proof, maybe just hope.
>> Maybe some come back. You thinking they’ll get the right hope? Or you think they’re just getting stuff to make them feel good? That’s too long, man, too long.
>> It’s a long time to live with the anxiety.
>> It is. It is. It is too long.
>> But they don’t have closure, you know?
>> And as a matter of fact, they still have bodies from a year or two or five, 25, that they haven’t identified, and this is 2017, so, man, it’s a waste of time. It’s a waste of time.
>> Okay, my name is Leonardo Ayala. I was born February 14, 1935, 1 more year older than he. Yes, [INAUDIBLE].
>> When did you volunteer?
>> I volunteer in … I think that was in January 1953, and they call me in March 1953.
>> Oh. That was right before the armistice was signed.
>> That was before the armistice was signed in Korea.
>> Yeah, they were still in the war. Yeah, they were still in the war.
>> Mm-hmm. I … Wait. Why … Okay, so knowing that the war was still taking place, why would you volunteer?
>> That’s economics-wise because more work. I live in …
>> But …
>> I live in the island of Vieques. Vieques was small island and was a very, very poor island, and there wasn’t work to do. You would go to school, go away from school, and you can’t go to college because you don’t have the money to go to college, you don’t … You have … You find works and work around, so you have to go someplace. You either go to the state or either go to the army.
>> But that’s still different.
>> There was no choice.
>> But you’re still risking your life.
>> Well, yeah, but you have to survive. You’re looking for survival. That’s a positive.
>> Well, God must have blessed you so much because instead of sending you to war, he sent you to …
>> They sent me to Germany.
>> I know.
>> And I spend my whole time in Germany.
>> For how many years?
>> Almost 3 year. It was about 20 months, something like that. Almost 3 years I spent in Germany.
>> What was your service? What did you do in Germany?
>> I did infantry training.
>> When they sent me to Germany, they check my MOS to Supply Specialist. They assign me to a supply company.
>> Actually, that’s very interesting. I like this interview a lot because most people think, “Okay, it’s war, so everybody goes to Korea,” but no.
>> There were people serving in Germany, so right after World War II.
>> Not right after but soon after. There were people in other parts of the world, and they don’t realize that it takes a united effort to defend part of the army. So I’ve never … I haven’t really asked … I haven’t really heard from people who served during the Korean War in Germany, so can you tell us more about what it felt like being in Germany when you knew that a lot of people were fighting in Korea?
>> Well, in that year, in 1954 when I went to Germany, Germany was still under occupation. It was still in occupation for United States. So that’s what … We went as a occupation force. They still … United States was running Germany.
>> How many … How large was the unit or the people who were based there?
>> Well, I was assigned to the … I don’t know because they had so many bases in Germany, but this base that I was assigned was a supply company. All the part that the … All the vehicle, all the tank, all the … They need it there in Germany. They ship from the United States to Germany. I was stationed in [FOREIGN LANGUAGE], Germany. And so if they need a part anywhere in Asia or in Europe, instead of sending the part to the United States, they send the parts that are already in Germany. It was closer. It was a big, big, big, big supply, i think that supply is bigger than this down here, big supply. And then they had all kind of part in that supply.
>> So they don’t have to send something to the United States. If they need something for a tank or a truck or an airplane or something like that, they got them here.
>> Another question I always ask is, during the Korean War was when the army, military, was first integrated, right? Before it was segregated, and I ask many people what their experience in the military was like because even if the law said, “Okay, well, let’s” … “Puerto Ricans, they fought in a segregated unit.”
>> There was an all-Black army as well. So you were … Were you part of an integrated unit in Germany?
>> Did you face racism and …
>> Really. When I was stationed in [FOREIGN LANGUAGE], no racism toward me.
>> Really? That’s …
>> I know that in United States, there was some kind of racism, racism, but none there. I talk about myself. I never was feeling that.
>> So other people in your unit, even if they were white Americans, they didn’t treat you badly?
>> No, mm-mm.
>> Not in Germany.
>> That is actually a very encouraging thing to hear.
>> Yeah. Even when I … When my dad come to … When I wanted to enlist, I told them I don’t want to enlist. Even they … My company commander insists, [INAUDIBLE]. I said, “No. I don’t.” [INAUDIBLE] But I … Not in Germany.
>> So you left the service after 2 years?
>> And you came back to Saint Croix?
>> No, I was living in Puerto Rico at that time. I was drafted in Puerto Rico.
>> You were drafted in Puerto Rico?
>> What does that mean?
>> Well, they took me to the army, I was living in Puerto Rico. They take me to the army. I was living in Puerto Rico.
>> So you served in the army in Puerto Rico?
>> No, no, no, no, no, no. I took my training in Puerto Rico. They had training in Puerto Rico, and then when you take the training, they will ship you to the different place in the war. So when I completed my training, they shipped me to Germany. They ship some others to Korea.
>> Yes, but after, you could’ve come back home.
>> No, but my home wasn’t here. My home was Puerto Rico.
>> Yeah, my home was Puerto Rico.
>> When did you come to Saint …
>> I was born in Puerto Rico. I was raised in Puerto Rico.
>> Oh, but you weren’t part of the 65th Infantry?
>> No, no, no, no, no. I was in the …
>> But you know about the Borinqueneers?
>> Yeah, I know about the Borinqueneers, yes. The Borinqueneers, yes, but I was not part of the Borinqueneers.
>> So when did you come to Saint Croix?
>> I come to Saint Croix … Let me tell you. My father moved here in 1952, and I came here in the same year, 1952. Then after that, 1953, I went to the army. When I came home from the army, I went back to school because when I went to army, I was only … I was in grade … was not high school. I had another 10 grades, so when I come home from the army, I went to fit in my high school. When I did my high school, I went to the state. I went to New York to live. And I stayed in New York until 1964, and that’s when I came to live here in Virgin Islands in 1964.
>> Wow. Do you still have family in Puerto Rico or here?
>> Yeah, yeah, both. And in the states, my daughters live in … I got two daughters and a son. My two daughters live in Jacksonville, Florida, and my son lives in New York.
>> Oh. Where in New York?
>> In the Bronx, New York.
>> Yeah. And you go visit them, huh?
>> Oh, yeah. I was there last year. And this year, I went to Jacksonville, Florida, to visit my daughters.
>> So between New York City, Saint Croix and Puerto Rico …
>> Puerto Rico, yeah.
>> … you like where best?
>> Well, I never complain about Saint Croix. I got no complaint about the state of what I was living in. Whenever I go, [INAUDIBLE] I don’t feel no homesick or anything like that.