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The Funeral of Yoon Jang-ho

Posted March. 06, 2007 07:15,   


“Watching you return because you wanted to enlist in the military, we were able to think once again about the meaning of motherland and patriotism.”

The funeral ceremony for Army Staff Sgt. Yoon Jang-ho (27) of the Dasan Engineering Unit, the Korean soldier who was killed in the terrorist bombings in Afghanistan on February 27, was held yesterday. Employees at HB Advisors, where Yoon worked as an intern before enlisting, read aloud their letter to Yoon, letting the 600 people present, including the bereaved family, military officers, and political personnel, recall the young man’s strong patriotism that drove him to apply for overseas duty three times.

Yoon’s funeral, which was held on March 5 in strong winds and sleet at the military hospital’s special commander funeral home in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, commenced with the solemn strains of a military band and pallbearers holding his portrait and carrying him into the funeral parlor.

During the funeral, Yoon’s father Yoon Hee-cheol (65) and mother Lee Chang-hee (59) looked on with quiet faces.

As their son’s body was being moved toward the hearse after the closing address, however, they followed along, staring at the ground in agony. When the body was loaded onto the hearse, Yoon and Lee finally burst into tears.

At the funeral, which lasted for 40 minutes starting at 8:00 a.m., Yoon’s colleague Sgt. Eom Seon-ho (22) recited the eulogy, “I remember the farewell party the night before being dispatched to Afghanistan. I promised him that when he returned 6 months later, I would host his welcome home party.”

He went on in a choked voice, “I will not forget how we promised we would drink soju at a snack stall annually on the day our training ended after we faced mud, dust, sweat, and tears during our training. My friend, I will always have a cup full of soju for you.”

After the funeral, Yoon’s body was moved to the Seongnam crematorium.

The family held hands and chatted calmly during the cremation, but when their son reappeared as a handful of ashes at 11:40 a.m., they broke down in sobs again.

Yoon’s parents had to be supported by Yoon’s brother Jang-hyeok (33) and sister Seo-yeon (30) coming out of the crematorium.

Yoon, who met his son twice everyday during the funeral, said, “I would make my house a freezer just to see his face everyday.”

Since March 2, a total of 3,966 mourners, including 3,100 officers, came to offer their condolences.

Present at the ceremony were senior presidential secretary for security policy Baek Jong-cheon, Defense Minister Kim Jang-soo, Uri Party representative Jang Young-dal, Democratic Labor Party representative Kwon Young-gil, National Assembly Defense chairman Kim Seong-gon, former Gyeonggi governor Sohn Hak-gyu, Afghanistan deputy ambassador Naqibullah Hafizi, Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) Chairman Kim Gwan-jin, Army Chief of Staff Park Heung-ryeol, commander of Special Operations Command Kim Jin-hoon, Deputy Commander of ROK-US Combined Forces Command Kim Byung-gwan, Eighth U.S. Army Commander LTG David Valcourt, and others.

Meanwhile, Yoon’s body was transferred to the national cemetery in Daejeon after cremation, and was buried at the National Memorial Cemetery at 3:30 p.m. after a ceremony.

After the burial, Yoon’s parents greeted all the visitors and asked a favor of their son’s college comrade and HB Advisors colleague Koo Yoon-mo (26).

Taking his hand, they told him, “You must live the fullest life possible for our Jang-ho, who was taken first.”