by COURTNEY LEE
A British Korean War veteran has donated 10 military medals to South Korea on Tuesday in honor of the country and its people.
William Speakman, 87, presented a total of 10 medals he earned during his 23-year-long military career to the South Korean people on Tuesday, three of which were awarded for his service in the Korean War over 60 years ago, Yonhap News Agency reported.
One of the donated medals was the Victoria Cross (VC), Britain’s highest military decoration for valor. Among the four former soldiers who received a VC for their heroism during the Korean War, Speakman is the sole living holder of the medal.
“I donate my medals to the people in South Korea because what they have done since the war finished has really touched me,” Speakman said in a press conference at the War Memorial of Korea in Yongsan, according to the Korea Times. “They rebuilt South Korea. I am very proud of what [they’ve] done.”
Although the original VC awarded to Speakman is currently preserved in the War Memorial in Scotland, the replica will be on display at the National War Memorial in Seoul, alongside nine other medals the veteran has donated, including the British Korean War Medal and the United Nations Service Medal. Speakman said that they will hopefully serve as reminders of the past.
“I sincerely hope that the future generation of South Korea will follow their forebears and look after this beautiful place of yours,” he said.
During the 1950-1953 conflict, Speakman earned the VC for fighting against Chinese and North Korean forces on November 4, 1951, using hand grenades while under a series of attacks until reinforcements came, according to BBC. The donated medals are also a tribute to British troops that fought bravely in the Korean peninsula. About 100,000 British military personnel were involved in the Korean War with over 1,000 killed.
Speakman also expressed his wish for his ashes to be returned to the country that he fought for.
“I want my ashes scattered in No Man’s Land,” he said, referring to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea.
Speakman, who arrived in South Korea on Monday with a group of fellow British war veterans, expressed his hope for the reunification of the two Koreas, calling for North Korea to realize the consequences of separation. The veterans will visit the U.N. Memorial Cemetery in Busan and DMZ before leaving on Saturday, according to the Korea Times.
Featured image via Yonhap/EPA