US And South Korean Soldiers Receive Medals For Helping To Rescue North Korean Defector

Gen. Vincent Brooks, commander of United Nations Command and U.S. Forces Korea, awards a group of Joint Security Area soldiers the Army commendation medal, Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017.
U.S. Forces Korea Facebook

Six U.S. and South Korean soldiers were awarded medals Thursday for helping to rescue a North Korean defector who made a daring escape across the border that divides the peninsula.

The fleeing soldier was severely wounded on Nov. 13 as other North Korean troops opened fire to try to stop him as he ran onto the South Korean side of the Joint Security Area, then collapsed.

Two South Korea soldiers who are part of the JSA security battalion crawled across the leaf-strewn ground to recover him, then dragged him to safety as other members of the battalion monitored the situation.

Gen. Vincent Brooks, commander of United Nations Command and U.S. Forces Korea, awarded a group of Joint Security Area soldiers the Army commendation medal, Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017.U.S. Forces Korea Facebook

Gen. Vincent Brooks, head of United Nations Command and U.S. Forces Korea, awarded the soldiers an Army commendation medal “in recognition for their efforts” in rescuing the defector, during a ceremony at Camp Bonifas, a statement said.

The awardees were Sgt. 1st Class Noh Yeong Soo, Sgt. 1st Class Song Seoung Hyeon, Sgt. Robert Hartfield, Maj. Jeffery Schmidt, Lt. Col. Kwon Young Hwan, and Lt. Col. Matthew Farmer, USFK said on its Facebook page. It didn’t provide more information.

“Your actions resulted in saving the defector’s life and de-escalating an incident that threatened the 64-year-old armistice,” the citation said.

The ceremony took place as troops prepared to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner at the base’s dining facility.

The movie-like scene was captured on closed-circuit television footage released Wednesday by the U.S.-led UNC that oversees the area.

The UNC said the North Koreans violated the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War by shooting across the border and in one case temporarily crossing it physically.

The defector remains hospitalized, although doctors said he has regained consciousness and is on the road to recovery.

More than 30,000 North Koreans have defected to the South since the war ended, but it’s extremely rare for soldiers to try to cross through the Demilitarized Zone, a 2.5-mile wide, 150-mile-long strip of land that’s lined with barbed wire and dotted with landmines.

The JSA provides the adversaries with a neutral zone and has been the site of past dialogue. It’s also a popular tourist destination, recognizable for the blue conference buildings that straddle the border.


©2017 the Stars and Stripes. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

The Pentagon has identified the two soldiers were killed in combat in Afghanistan on Wednesday as members of U.S. Army Special Forces.

Master Sgt. Luis F. DeLeon-Figueroa, 31, and Master Sgt. Jose J. Gonzalez, 35, both died in Faryab Province from wounds sustained from small arms fire, the Pentagon said in a press release. The incident is under investigation.

Read More Show Less

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted on Thursday of possible Israeli involvement in attacks against Iranian-linked targets in Iraq.

A series of blasts in the past few weeks have hit weapon depots and bases belonging to paramilitary groups in Iraq, many of them backed by Israel's regional foe Iran. The groups blamed the United States and Israel for the blasts on Wednesday.

Read More Show Less
White House/Shealah Craighead

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday that will make it easier for permanently disabled veterans to have their student loan debt forgiven.

Read More Show Less
Capt. Tranay Lashawn Tanner. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Editor's Note: This article by Oriana Pawlyk originally appeared on, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

Physical fitness tests were briefly suspended earlier this week and outdoor cardio testing will be curtailed for the remainder of the summer at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, after an airman died Saturday. She had completed her PT test on Friday.

Read More Show Less
(DoD photo)

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer has expanded a review of the Judge Advocate General Corps to include the Marine Corps, a Navy spokesman said on Thursday.

"There is value in applying this review and its subsequent recommendations across the Department of the Navy," Cmdr. Jereal Dorsey told Task & Purpose. "The review's purpose is to confirm the uniformed legal community is structurally and organizationally sound and best supporting the good order and discipline our integrated naval force."

Read More Show Less