Korea connection highlights KWVA’s Christmas luncheon

As special guest speaker at the Korean War Veterans Association Sussex County Chapter’s Christmas luncheon, Madeleine Overturf holds a photo of her mother holding baby Madeleine while the family was living in South Korea. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

MILLSBORO – Madeleine Overturf is a military brat and darn proud of it.

Korea connections – military, civilian and family – brought the WBOC-TV multi-video journalist/news anchor to the Korean War Veterans Association Bill Carr Sussex County Chapter’s holiday installation luncheon. She served as special guest speaker at the Dec. 6 event held at the Georgia House Restaurant in Millsboro.

“Why I have some special ties to Korea is I actually was born in Korea,” said Ms. Overturf.

The first child of Eric and Karla Overturf, Ms. Overturf was born in Seoul, South Korea’s capital. She spent the first six months of her life in Osan, located an hour south of Seoul where her father was stationed as a fighter pilot with the United States Air Force.

A 2nd lieutenant while serving in Korea, her father, now a major general, is the Mobilization Assistant to the Chief of the Air Force Reserve, and is based at the Pentagon in Arlington County, Va.

Madeleine was born while her father was in South Korea.

“We had to live off base. My mom and my dad rented an apartment, not base housing. It looked over, they said, trash heaps and wires. Really, it was very much third-world country at that point still in the 90s,” said Ms. Overturf. “My mom had to carry me onto the base to give me a bath in the gym because we didn’t have potable in the apartment. That is why I think I like the gym so much …”

Ms. Overturf has a special bond with South Korea, which has risen from an impoverished nation to a major economic/industrial power in the world.

“I love Korea. I went back six years ago with my father. He goes back every year still for those exercises with the Korean military,” said Ms. Overturf. “One thing I just want to make clear for any one of you who haven’t been back to Korea is that the South Koreans love Americans. They love everything that you all did for them and their country, still to this day. They are so grateful. They are grateful people. They loved us.”

Korean War veteran Walter Koopman holds a plaque with a piece of barb wire from the demilitarized zone separating the two countries, North and South Korea. This piece of history was provided by John Slemko, courtesy of his son. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

“The biggest thing I got out of living there and growing up as a military brat was learning about service before self, excellence in all things and integrity in everything that you do – to which you all have lived that with your service and for what you continue to do for our community by being outstanding citizens,” said Ms. Overturf.

At the installation, Jack McGinley was sworn in for another two-year term as KWVA Sussex County Chapter president, with Joann Sedei serving as vice president and David Miller as treasurer.

The oath was administered by Korean War veteran/KWVA member Edward Johnson, who was appointed by Gov. John Carney to serve as a commissioner on the commission of Veterans Affairs that meets monthly in Dover.

Numbering some 40-plus members, KWVA Sussex Chapter in 2018 donated $120,000 in support of veterans and other organizations. The list includes the USO Family Center, Fisher Houses in Fort Belvoir and at Dover Air Force Base, Warrior Weekend out of American Legion Post 28, the Spaulding Foundation Track-Chair, Stand Down/Veterans Awareness Center, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center at Bethesda, Fort Knox Warrior Transition unit and the Home of the Brave and Home of the Brave II men’s and women’s transitional facilities in Milford, donations to area high schools for scholarships to JROTC students and others.

In 2017, the KWVA donated $127,000 to worthy causes.

Edward Johnson administers the oath to Korean War Veterans Association Bill Carr Sussex County Chapter to officers, from left, vice president Joanne Sedei; president Jack McGinley; and treasurer David Miller at the Dec. 6 Christmas luncheon. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

In addition to organizations, the KWVA also lends a helping hand to veterans in need.

“For a group that we are, we really study who is looking for real help,” said Korean War veteran Walter Koopman, KWVA Sussex Chapter’s programs chairman. “If we feel it is justified and we all agree, then we’ll pay the light bill, for the deck that the guy fell through, etc., etc.”

“We will put a new roof on if necessary, pay their utilities if necessary,” said Mr. Miller. “One of the things we do not do, we do not give money to individuals.”

The local KWVA and its Wounded Warrior Fund have benefited from philanthropy, having received substantial legacy funds left by people who entrust the mission.

“That is the essence of what our mission is, to help the vets, no matter what war they fought in,” said Mr. McGinley. “I think we do a nice job in that respect and I’m very proud of this organization, being able to accomplish all of that.”

“We had a great year,” said Mr. Koopman.

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