By Reann Huber
A Morgan County resident and her brother recently returned from an eye-opening and memorable experience in South Korea upon invitation to honor their oldest brother, who gave the ultimate sacrifice, along with many others in the Korean War.
Vada Timberlake accompanied her brother, James Walters, and his wife, Jeannie Walters, who were invited to a week long commemoration of those who were killed in action, missing in action, or veterans of the Korean War. Their hosts and the ones who extended their invitation to Walters was the Sae Eden Presbyterian Church, the largest church in South Korea.
Around 120 people were a part of this annual trip put on by the church, which included war veterans, families who have lost loved ones, along with Prisoners of War.
“[Being in Korea] gave me a better sense of the meaning ‘freedom isn’t free,” said Timberlake.
The Walters family lost their oldest brother, Norton Walters, in the war in August 1952. Both Timberlake and her brother were much younger than Walters, who was 23 at the time of his death, so most memories of him came through their family.
“I, of course, didn’t remember my brother, but the main part I do remember is how it affected my family,” Timberlake said. “I remember 40 years of my daddy grieving, and every time he would talk about my brother, he would shed a tear or cry.”
This trip meant more to Timberlake and her brother as the sacrifice of those who fought for freedom has been a part of their family through different generations. Their father was wounded twice in World War I, their uncle was KIA in World War II, Timberlake’s brother-in-law was wounded in the Vietnam War, and her husband of 46 years is a two tour Vietnam veteran.
Timberlake and her brother were able to have a better way for them to pay their respects to their fallen brother, and they were welcomed with open arms all throughout their stay in South Korea.
“The people south of the 38th parallel on the Korean peninsula have never forgotten the cost of freedom,” said Walters. “The one thing I will always remember is the tremendous love people of Korea have for the United States.”
Timberlake and Walters traveled to several locations with the church, including the National Korean War Memorial, where to their surprise they found their brother’s name on a plaque among those who were KIA or MIA. It was an emotional experience for the two of them and an opportunity to really pay their respects.
Being in South Korea with the church and other war veterans and families was also a great learning experience for them. Timberlake and her brother were welcomed in a very hospitable manner at all of the places they visited to honor those from the Korean War and were blown away by how gracious the people of South Korea were for Americans.
“[The South Koreans] were very hospitable and gracious and that was a learning experience for me,” said Timberlake. “The biggest thing that I thought was so good that the [Sae Eden] Church is doing with this gathering for 10 years in a row now…is that they’re teaching their college-aged children and their little children to pass this along. They’re passing along that they would not have the freedom and country they have and the opportunity they have if it weren’t for the Americans who helped them during the war.”