The Korean War never ended, a retired Army general and Sonoma County judge reminded the large crowd at Thursday’s pre-Veterans Day lunch in Santa Rosa.
Gary Medvigy knows the Korean Peninsula, having spent a good deal of time there and served in Seoul as deputy commanding general of the 8th Army.
The line dividing North and South Korea, Medvigy told about 600 military veterans and supporters at the 17th annual Tribute to our Veterans lunch, “is freedom’s frontier, the last Cold War vestige.”
Wearing a formal Army uniform, Medvigy addressed the gathering from the stage of the flag- and balloon-bedecked main hall of the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building.
Korea, he said, “is a tough, dangerous place … if anything ticks off there, it’ll be catastrophic. So stay tuned.”
Though offering his insight into the peril surrounding America’s war of words with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un and his country’s nuclear weapons program, Medvigy, 61, dedicated most of his keynote address to honoring veterans and the community members who pay tribute to them.
He also lauded all of the first responders, many of them military veterans, who defended lives and property in the region’s recent fires.
Early in his speech, Medvigy, who retired as an Army Reserve major general in February of 2016 and as a Sonoma County Superior Court judge about six months later, said, “I’m in uniform, so I can’t make any political statements — I’ll only make some observations!”
He said he noticed that when a Coast Guard honor guard presented the American flag at the outset of the luncheon and vocalist Mark Kratz sang the National Anthem, no one present took a knee.
Alluding to the socio-political phenomenon of professional football players and other kneeling during the singing or playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Medvigy said to applause, “I will never take a knee or tolerate those who do.”
He thanked local Rotary and Kiwanis clubs for hosting the Tribute to our Veterans lunch and offered special acknowledgment to Vietnam War veterans, some of whom, he observed, were wrongly spat upon or in other ways abused by people who opposed that war.
He asked all the Vietnam-era veterans present to stand, and he joined the crowd in applauding them.
Medvigy noted that success has been made in offering work to under-employed military veterans, but that a national disgrace endures as suicide continues among combat veterans, the majority of whom are receiving no care from the Veterans Administration at the time they end their lives, he said.
The retired judge and general singled out and asked the crowd to join him in thanking his favorite 1 percenters, the few Americans who serve “something bigger than themselves” by putting on the uniform.