Friday, November 20, 2020

Dream Come True: Korean War veteran receives medals 70 years later

U.S. Army veteran Edward 'Ed' Salmon of
Windham displays medals, ribbons and a
certificate he received during a special
ceremony on Veterans Day at the Windham
Veterans Center. Salmon, 91, never received
the medals for his military service during the
Korean War following his discharge and return
to civilian life in 1952. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE   

By Ed Pierce

Nearly 70 years ago, Edward “Ed” Salmon answered the call to be drafted into the U.S. Army and logged two years creating critical lines of communication for soldiers in combat zones on the Korean Peninsula during the Korean War. When his time in the Army was up, Salmon returned to the United States vowing to make a life for himself, but there was always something missing.

On Veterans Day, Salmon, 91, of Windham, who went on to earn a college degree in civil engineering and served for 20 years as the Director of Plant Facilities for the University of Maine at Orono, was brought full-circle to his military career when he was awarded five medals and two ribbons for his service in Korea.

Born in 1929 in Cornwells Heights, Pennsylvania, Salmon just missed being drafted for service in World War II because he was too young, but as he was approaching his 21st birthday in December 1950, he was drafted and was among the first soldiers to train for eight weeks at the newly reopened Fort Meade in Maryland. From there Private First Class Salmon was sent to Fort Benning in Georgia for further training and then he swapped places with a fellow solder going home on a hardship discharge and was sent to Korea early in 1951.

“It was brutally hot in the summer there and 20 to 40 degrees below zero in the winter,” Salmon said. “And it rained all spring.”

Working in heavily fortified areas, he learned to climb telephone poles and crisscrossed much of the
Korean Peninsula building, installing and maintaining communications lines. It was tough and dangerous work, under constant watch by the enemy and sometimes being shot at.

Because of the nature of their mission, his unit didn’t receive much recognition by the Eighth Army based in Tokyo and to a man was overlooked for promotions in rank and unheralded for their work under some of the most trying conditions of the war.

“I didn’t particularly care for any of it,” Salmon said. “You were constantly on the move and I didn’t like Korean food.”

After spending almost 13 months in the combat zone, Salmon was discharged and back in the USA by February 1953, feeling lucky to have survived the experience.

He was accepted for admission to the University of Maine and earned a Bachelor of Science degree. He began his civilian career working as a structural design consultant for a Massachusetts firm and then returned to Maine to work for a construction company in Yarmouth.

Salmon married his first wife and they had four sons together. After his marriage fell apart, he met his current wife, Pat, in Portland and they have been married for 37 years, moving to Windham about 15 years ago.

“He didn’t talk about his time in the military,” Pat Salmon said. “About four or five years ago, we started going to the Togus VA Center for a  hearing problem he has and it was then he started thinking and talking about the medals he never received for his military service.”

She said that he knew he had been awarded some medals for his time in Korea but had never physically received them.

“It was something that had passed long ago,” Salmon said. “I did my job and came back. But I had a life to lead and went on with my life. Over the years I forgot all about them.”

Being around other veterans at the Togus VA Center rekindled his desire to obtain his medals, he said.

Pat Salmon helped him fill out paperwork to receive his medals, but a few issues stalled the process.

“His DD 214 discharge papers had his birthday wrong,” she said. “They had his birthday off by one day and getting that corrected took some time.”

The Salmons then met Lin and David Tanguay, who live in their neighborhood. Lin Tanguay told Pat Salmon that her husband David could help in Ed Salmon’s quest to receive his medals and suggested that they join the American Legion Field-Allen Post 148 in Windham.

In his role as Adjutant of the American Legion post, David Tanguay was able to obtain the medals for
Ed Salmon.

During a special ceremony at the Windham Veterans Center on Veterans Day, Salmon received not three medals as he had thought he had coming, but five medals and two ribbons.

He received the National Defense Service Medal Award retroactive to 1950; the Korean War Service Medal, the United Nations Korean War Service Medal; the Korean Commemorative Medal; the Korean Service Medal; the U.S. Army Presidential Citation Ribbon; and the Korean Presidential Citation ribbon.

“I was very pleased to get them and with two of my kids there to watch me receive them,” Salmon said.

The framed medals, ribbons and a commemorative certificate from the American Legion now occupy a prominent place in the family’s living room and are a source of great pride for them.   

According to Pat Salmon, the family is grateful to Tanguay and the American Legion for helping fulfill Ed Salmon’s dream of receiving the medals he earned in Korea and for the camaraderie of being around other veterans.

“He needed the social outlet,” Pat Salmon said. “It has allowed him to meet and talk with others who have shared his experience. We can’t thank David and his wife Lin enough for their efforts in introducing us to the group and helping make this such a memorable time for us.” <

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