F rom 1952 to 1954, Richard Vallee spent one and one half months on a huge "rice paddy". The 24 year old soldier was in the artillery in the Canadian Armed Forces when he was sent to battle the invading Chinese Army in Korea. For the next eighteen months, Vallee wrote every week to his fiancee, Rose (now his wife of 41 years).
V allee's life changed incredibly when he left Canada for the unsettling Korean War. In Korea, battle could come at any time. "When you're in the battlefield, there's a lot of tension," he said. "It doesn't matter what you do. Everybody is under the same kind of pressure. You never know what's going to happen."
V allee's regiment, the 25th Brigade, was stationed north of Seoul near the Imjin River on the 38th Parallel. "You're in the hills - the enemy is on one side and you are on the other," said Vallee of the area's geography. "Living conditions were primitive, to say the least. We made due with whatever we could find," said Vallee. "I didn't like all the rats and snakes and things," he added.
V allee's friend, Arnold Brand, agrees about the living conditions. "When it rained, it really rained there," he said. "And when it wasn't raining, it was dusty. The countryside was beautiful, but we didn't notice it."
B rand is the second vice-president of the Korean Veterans Association, which has 87 members in Canada. The KVA is a tightly knit group that keeps track of each of its members, visits sick comrades and ensures their friends receive proper burial. Vallee explains the closeness among veterans as a residue of the team-work necessary in war. "There's no one regiment that can win the war, but we can do it as a team," he said.
V allee and Brand have never returned to Korea, but they say some veterans make the trip every year. In all 326,791 Canadians served in the Korean War, and 516 were killed in the conflict.
A s with veterans of all wars, Nov. 11 is an important day for Vallee and Brand. It is a special day because we remember our buddies," Vallee said. He believes Remembrance Day is an important occasion because it helps young people understand the role veterans played in securing the society every Canadian enjoys today.
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