Korean War Veterans Blue Star Memorial Highways dedicated

Gerald Rettela never gave up on his quest to have a highway in Washington state dedicated to Korean War veterans.

On Sept. 6, Rettela, president of the Korean War Veterans Association Olympic Peninsula Chapter, saw his dream come true when portions of state Routes 112 and 113 were formally dedicated as the Korean War Veterans Blue Star Memorial Highway.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony at the junction of Routes 112 and 113 was attended by local dignitaries, various veterans' associations and representatives of the Korean Women's Association, much to the delight of Retella and Jerry Abbott, with the Clallam County veterans association, who was instrumental in drafting the original legislation that led to Saturday's dedication.

Rettela went to Rep. Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam, in January 2007 with the idea of naming a highway in honor of Washington Korean War veterans. Kessler said she was immediately motivated to sponsor the legislation after hearing Rettela's plan.

"It's a way to honor the sacrifices made by our veterans who fought so bravely in Korea in the 1950s," Kessler said at the time.

Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, agreed, lending his support to the legislation.

By November 2007, legislation passed making the portion of state Routes 112 and 113 officially Korean War Veterans Blue Star Memorial Highways and signs depicting the newly named roadway soon were installed.

At Saturday's dedication, the veterans and their friends spread out across state Route 112 to cut the red ribbon. With traffic slowing down at the unexpected obstacle, one of the veterans yelled out, "road guard," the traditional command used to post traffic lookouts. Drivers waited while former Army nurse Mary Reid, who served in the Korean conflict, cut the ribbon.

The Korean War was fought from 1950 to 1953 and claimed 168,000 Americans, including 528 from Washington state. Six of those were from Clallam County.

Alexander Kibizoff served with the Army's 45th infantry division and was wounded at the Heartbreak Hill battle. A combat medic himself, he needed medical care when he survived two hand grenade explosions and a rifle shot.

"It was pretty exciting," said Kibizoff, who attended Saturday's dedication.

Two local residents served together. Ed Claplanhoo, who spearheaded the Neah Bay Veterans Memorial project, was Don Young's platoon sergeant in the 369th amphibious engineers, stationed at Fort Warden.

Moon Up Sung, consul of the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Seattle, was able to attend the dedication ceremony, as was Sen. Jim Hargrove and Clallam County Commissioner Mike Doherty.

The ceremony included a reading of all the battles and actions of the Korean War and the names of Korean towns and villages where American forces saw action. The readings were accompanied by the solemn ringing of a bell.

Plans now are in the works for a Vietnam veterans memorial highway on state Route 112 from the Route 112-113 junction to Port Angeles.

Ashley Miller, Sequim

Gazette, and Donna Barr, Forks Forum, contributed to this story.

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