By Melissa Mitchell
Another Memorial Day had come and gone, but that did not stop Illinois veterans of the Korean War from gearing up for their own special -- and long-awaited -- tribute to fellow Illinoisans who lost their lives in that conflict.
Veterans from throughout the state gathered in Springfield's Oak Ridge Cemetery June 16 for the formal dedication of the state's Korean War Memorial, a 4-ton bronze sculpture designed by UI art and design professor Robert Youngman.
Twelve feet high and 12 feet in diameter, the bell-shaped memorial includes four niches that provide a backdrop for representative figures from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force. The sculpture is positioned over a granite base, which is inscribed with the names of the 1,743 Illinois residents killed in Korea.
Although a number of people have been involved in the effort to erect the memorial, the driving force behind the project is former Marine Gunnery Sgt. Carl I. Greenwood of Springfield. A 22-year veteran of the Marine Corps, Greenwood served as a machine-gunner in Korea and is president of the Illinois Korean Memorial Association. Six years ago, he began what became a personal crusade to honor the memory of Illinois' Korean War dead.
"Looking at the schools' history books, there was not as much information about the Korean War as there was for the other wars this nation has fought," Greenwood said.
"When I learned what students were being taught about the MIAs and POWs in Vietnam and saw how they flocked to Springfield to the Vietnam War Memorial, I thought they should know that in three years in Korea, there were 2 1/2 times more MIAs and three times more POWs than there were in Vietnam. There were 58,000 casualties over 10 years in Vietnam, but we lost nearly that many in three years in Korea. Nobody knows that."
Determined to honor those who lost their lives and ensure that this chapter of the nation's and state's history is not forgotten, Greenwood originally designed a model for a memorial, and toted it around the state to veterans groups and other organizations in an effort to raise funds needed to build a permanent memorial. For six years, he criss-crossed the state, rallying support for his cause at every stop and raising money through just about every means imaginable.
Early on in his campaign, through what he describes as "sheer accident," Greenwood was united with Youngman, who is known nationwide for his large-scale concrete and bronze sculpture.
"I knew I was going to do it right from the start -- just because of the men involved," said Youngman, who donated his time to the project. "I'll never forget what I call 'the oak tree conference.' I met with Carl, and he took me out to the cemetery to look at the proposed site for the memorial.
There, we met with other members of the memorial committee, and as we sat there under a big oak tree, I looked around, and it was just a bunch of little old men like me with gray beards. There was something in their eyes ... they were looking to me for some kind of something.
"I knew right then I was going to do this ... because it was for the people who didn't come back," said Youngman, a World War II Navy veteran. "I went to the UI on the G.I. Bill and got educated. These guys didn't have the same chance."
In addition to Youngman's contribution, other major donations have helped turn Greenwood's dream into reality. Among them, the city of Springfield contributed two acres of land for the memorial, and Bruce Ratterree, retired vice president of the Springfield engineering firm Crawford, Murphy and Tilly Inc., enlisted his company's support by providing site preparation and engineering services.
Following the dedication the memorial was turned over to the Illinois Historical Society for management and administration.