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Local Korean War Hero Honored at Lasdon Park

SOMERS, N.Y. - People know Lasdon Park for its lovely setting, its summer concerts, its garden shop and even for its brief appearance in the film, The Secret of My Success. But are you aware of the Veterans Memorial and Museum at Lasdon?

The site “tells the story of the self-sacrifice and hardships of Westchester residents who answered their country’s call to duty in time of need, from the Revolutionary War to the present.”

Speaking at last Sunday's dedication of a memorial plaque to U. S. Navy Lt. John K. Koelsch, County Executive Robert Astorino said the Korean War is often referred to as the forgotten war. "So it is appropriate that we gather here today to make it clear that those who lost their lives in defense of our American freedoms and values will not be forgotten,” he said. Astorino added that it was 60 years ago, almost to the day, that Lt. Koelsch died as a prisoner of war in North Korea.

Records show Lt. Koelsch voluntarily flew his helicopter to mountainous terrain in hostile territory to rescue a downed airman. Despite poor visibility and enemy fire, Koelsch descended and succeeded in locating the badly wounded pilot. While the victim was being hoisted into the helicopter, it was struck by enemy fire and subsequently crashed. Lt. Koelsch led his crew and the badly burnt airman away from the site and managed to evade capture for nine days. Once taken into captivity, his courage and fortitude served as inspiration to his fellow prisoners. 

Lt. John Koelsch gave up his life while in enemy hands and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. He was 27 years old.

Others present at the touching ceremony were Vito Pinto, Director of the Veterans Advisory Board and Director of the County Office of Drug Prevention, Lou Caldera from the Marine Corps League and State Assemblyman Robert Castelli. Representative of the Korean-American Citizens Association, Sam Chay, whose son was lost in the recent Middle East conflict and is also honored at Lasdon, participated in the unveiling of the plaque as well. 

The benediction was read by Assemblyman Castelli, who reminded everyone that, “freedom does not automatically perpetuate itself.” The ceremony concluded as a United States Marines Honor Guard marched in to retire the colors.

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