오바마 대통령은 미국의 ‘베테랑스 데이(재향군인의 날)’이기도 한 이날 수백여명의 미군 장병들 앞에서 한 연설에서 “미국은 한반도의 안정보장에 대한 책임을 수행하는 데 전혀 주저하지 않겠다”고 말했다.
이날 오바마 대통령의 용산기지 연설을 취재하기 위해 국방부 풀 기자단은 행사가 열린 시간인 오전 10시30분 보다 3시간이나 앞선 오전 7시30분까지 용산 미군기지 10번 게이트 앞에 집결해야 했다. 기자들은 30분 후 South Post Collier Field House에 도착했다. 이곳에서 기자들은 가방 및 소지품 검사 후 체육관으로 입장할 수 있었다.
체육관 안에는 미군 병사들이 행사 준비 한창이었다. 미 8군의 밴드가 대한민국과 미합중국 국가 연주 리허설을 펼치면서 흥겨운 컨서트 분위기도 자아냈다.
행사장엔 국방부 풀기자단 외에 백악관 출입 기자단 등 취재인원 40여명 대기 중이었다. 기자들은 행사가 시작하는 10시30분까지 계속 프레스 룸에서 대기했다.
주한미군 501정보여단의 수아레즈 병장은 “어떤 병사든지 자국의 대통령이 부대를 방문한다면 그 자체로 영광”이라며 기대감을 표시했다. 그는 “대통령을 가까이서 볼 수 있는 흔치 않은 기회”로 “이것은 빅 이벤트”라고 말했다.
시간이 지날수록 체육관 스탠드와 홀에는 병사들 모여들기 시작해 총 1400여명의 병사들이 자리를 함께 했다. 모두 자발적으로 신청한 인원들이라고 했다. 이 외에 장진호 전투에 참가했던 한·미 참전 용사와 한·미연합사 소속 한국군 장교들, 군 가족들 100여명도 참석했다.
웰스 주한미군 부 참모장(소장)은 병사들과 함께 홀 뒷쪽에 서서 대통령을 기다리고 있었다. 왜 스탠드에 앉지 않았냐는 질문에 “병사들이 서 있는다면 나도 같이 서 있을 것”이라며 “병사들은 오바마 대통령이 가져올 희망의 메세지에 큰 기대를 갖고 있다”라고 말했다.
웰스 소장은 “특히 오바마 대통령 영부인이 병사들의 복지와 가족 문제에 대해서 큰 관심을 갖고 있다”라고 덧붙였다.
행사예정 시간 10시 30분에 샤프 주한미군 사령관이 연단에 등장해서 병사들을 격려했다. 이어 주한미군 군목인 게리 브릭 중령이 축도를 시작했다. 그는 한국어로도 “기도합시다”라고 말했다.
오바마 대통령이 6·25에서의 참전용사들의 희생에 대해 치하하며 박수치자 참석자들도 함성과 함께 박수를 보냈다. 일부 참전용사들은 안경을 벗고 눈물을 닦기도 했다.
행사가 끝나자 오바마 대통령은 한국전 참전용사추모비에 헌화하고 청와대로 자리를 옮겼다.
다음은 오바마 대통령의 주요 연설 내용이다.
6·25 전쟁이 발발한지 60년이 지났다. 6.25 전쟁 발발 3일만에 북한군은 38선을 넘어 서울을 점령했다. 그 다음달에 한국군은 부산까지
당시 대다수의 미국인들은 한국을 잘 알지 못했을 것이다. 그리고 그 당시는 우리가 (베트남)전쟁을 끝낸지 겨우 5년여 지난 시점이었다. 하지만 우리는 한 자유국가에 대한 침략을 허락한다면 다른 모든 자유진영이 위협받을 것이란 것을 알았다.
그래서 사상처음으로 유엔은 북한을 몰아내기 위해서 무력을 사용할 것에 대한 표결을 했다. 1950년 9월 15일 미군은 인천에 상륙했다. 당시 여건은 미군이 이전에 경험하지 못한 최악의 조건이었다. 겨울엔 영하 30도 이하였고 여름엔 무더위였다.
한·미 양국 군은 숫적으로 불리했다. 어떤 때는 하루에 2만4000여 포격을 받기도 했다. 결국 전쟁은 참호 전투로 이어졌고, 한 밤중에 손과 발로 적과 맞서야 했다. 우리 병사들은 끝까지 싸웠고 3만7000여명의 미군이 희생됐다.
하지만 3년여의 전쟁끝에 아군은 적을 38선 위로 몰아내는 데 성공했다. 한 역사가는 미군에게 한국은 ‘가장 큰 시련이었다’라고 평가하면서 하지만 그들은 ‘기적과 같은’ 임무를 수행했다고 말한다.
지금 한반도에서 근무하는 장병 여러분, 여러분들의 주의를 보라. 여러분들이 1950년에 한국전에 참전한 군인이던지 아니면 지금 주둔하고 있는 병사이던지, 여러분들이 제공한 한반도 안보는 이시대 가장 성공적인 이야기를 가능하게 했다.
한국인 들 중에는 자신들의 나라가 예전에 단지 벼밭이었을 뿐이고 여름에는 홍수로 넘쳐나는 마을만 있었을 뿐이었음을 기억한다. 두세대가 지나기도 전에, 이 나라는 고속도로와 마천루가 즐비하고 전세계에서 가장 빠르게 번영하는 민주주의 국가가 됐다.
작년 내가 한국을 방문했을 때 이명박 대통령은 자신의 개인적인 얘기를 해 줬던 기억이 난다. 자신이 얼마나 어렵게 자랐는지를.
그때 이 대통령은 “전 미국인들이 한국민들이 얼마나 미국의 도움에 감사하고 있는지 알았으면 좋겠습니다. 미군의 도움이 없었다면 우리는 이처럼 강한, 번영하는 나라가 되지 못했을 것이니까요”라고 얘기했다
현재 한반도는 세계에서 가장 극명한 두 사회의 모습을 보여주고 있다. 한쪽은 개방되어 있는 반면 다른쪽은 폐쇄되어 있다. 한 나라는 역동적이고 성장하고 있는 반면, 다른 한 쪽은 변화하기 보다 국민을 굶주리도록 내버려 두고 있다.
이는 위성에서 내려다보면 더욱 극명하다. 서울의 불빛과 북한의 칠흑같은 어둠이 대비된다. 이것은 역사의 결과물이 아니고 북한이 선택한 길의 직접적인 결과물이다. 북한은 갈등과 도발을 택했고 핵무기를 개발하고 급기야 지난 3월 천안함을 공격했다.
천안함 공격 이후 북한은 오판해선 안된다. 미국은 대한민국의 안보 위협을 결코 좌시하지 않을 것이기 때문이다. 한·미동맹은 그 어느때보다 강하고 전세계 다른 국가들과도 공조할 것이다. 우리는 북한이 핵무기를 계속 추구한다면 오직 고립되고 안보가 불안해질 것이란 점을 분명히 해 왔다. -이하 생략- //
Hello, Yongsan! Let’s give another round of applause to Army Specialist Courtney Newby. Thank you for that introduction, and thank you for your service.I also want to thank our outstanding representatives here in the Republic of Korea: Ambassador Kathleen Stephens and General Skip Sharp. Congressman Peter Roskam from the great state of Illinois is here with us today. And our great friend and ally from the Republic of Korea is here, General Jung.It is an honor to be here at Yongsan Garrison. As President of the United States, I have no greater privilege than serving as Commander-in-Chief of the finest military the world has ever known. And on this Veterans’ Day, there’s no place I’d rather be than right here with U.S. Forces Korea. We’ve got the 8th Army in the house. We’ve got members of the 7th Air Force. We’ve got U.S. Navy Forces Korea. We’ve got just about every Marine in South Korea here today. And we’ve got a whole lot of DOD civilians, too.It’s also good to see some spouses and family members in the audience. You bear the burdens of your loved one’s service in ways that are often immeasurable – an empty chair at the dinner table or another holiday when Mom or Dad is some place far away. So I want you to know that this nation recognizes your sacrifice, and we are grateful for your service, too.On this day, we honor every man and woman who has ever worn the uniform of the United States of America. We salute fallen heroes, and keep in our prayers those who are still in harm’s way – like the men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. We recall acts of uncommon bravery and selflessness, but we also remember that honoring those who’ve served is about more than the words we say on Veterans’ Day or Memorial Day. It’s about how we treat our veterans every single day of the year. It’s about making sure they have the care they need and the benefits they have earned. It’s about serving all of you as well as you’ve served the United States of America.This has been one of my highest priorities since taking office. It’s why I asked for one of the largest increases in the VA budget in the past thirty years. It’s why we’ve dramatically increased funding for veterans’ health care. It’s why we’re improving care for wounded warriors, especially those with Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury. It’s why we’re working to eliminate the backlog at the VA and reforming the entire process with electronic claims and medical records. It’s why there are fewer homeless veterans on the streets than there were two years ago, and why there are nearly 400,000 veterans and their families who are going to college because of the post-9/11 GI Bill.So I want all of you to know that when you come home, your country will be there be for you. That is the commitment I make as your Commander-in-Chief. That is the sacred trust between the United States of America and all who defend its ideals.It’s a trust that’s been forged in places far from our shores: from the beaches of Europe to the jungles of Vietnam; from the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to the peninsula where we stand today.Sixty years have come and gone since the Communist armies first crossed the 38th parallel. Within three days, they had captured Seoul. By the end of the next month, they had driven the Korean army all the way south, to Pusan. And from where things stood in the summer of 1950, it didn’t appear that the Republic of Korea would survive much longer.At the time, many Americans had probably never heard of Korea. And it had only been five years since we finished fighting the last war. But we knew that if we allowed the unprovoked invasion of a free nation, all free nations would be threatened. And so, for the first time since its creation, the United Nations voted to use armed force to repel the attack from North Korea.On September 15th, 1950, American forces landed at Inchon. The conditions they fought under were some of the worst that Americans had ever experienced. The temperature reached more than thirty below in the winter and over one hundred degrees in the summer. In many places, Americans and our Korean allies were outgunned and outmanned, sometimes by as much as 20 to 1. At one point, they were hit with 24,000 artillery shells a day. By the end, the fighting had sometimes devolved into trench warfare, waged on hands and knees in the middle of the night.And still, our soldiers fought on. Nearly 37,000 Americans would give their lives in Korea. But after three years of fighting, our forces finally succeeded in driving the invading armies back over the 38th parallel. One war historian said that while he believed Korea was “the greatest of all trials” for American troops, their performance was “nothing short of miraculous.”Many of the men responsible for this miracle were only teenagers. Others had just finished fighting in the Second World War. Most would go home to raise their families and live out their lives. And sixty-two veterans of the Korean War have returned to be with us today.Gentlemen, we are honored by your presence. We are grateful for your service. And the world is better off because of what you did here. And for those who can, I would ask you to stand and accept the thanks of a grateful nation.I also want to recognize the Korean soldiers who battled side by side with our own. These men fought bravely and sacrificed greatly for their country, and some of them have joined us here as well. Thank you, friends. Katchi Kapshida. We go together.The veterans who have traveled here today saw battle at the Inchon landing and the Pusan Perimeter. You survived the bloodshed at Heartbreak Ridge and the ambush at the Chosin Reservoir. At one point in that battle, the enemy tossed a grenade into a trench where multiple marines lay wounded. That’s when Private Hector Cafferata, ran into that trench, picked up that grenade, and threw it back. It detonated in his hand, severely injuring his arm. But because of what he did, Private Cafferata saved the lives of his fellow marines. He received the Medal of Honor for his heroism, and he is here with us today.So many of you served your nation with such courage and commitment. You left your homes and your families and you risked your lives in what has often been called “The Forgotten War.”Well today, I want you to know this: We remember. We remember your courage. We remember your sacrifice. And the legacy of your service lives on in a free and prosperous Republic of Korea.Real change comes slowly, and many people don’t live to see the difference they’ve made in the lives of others. For the men and women who have served on this peninsula, all you have to do is look around. Whether you’re a veteran who landed in 1950 or one of the troops at Yongsan today, the security you’ve provided has made possible one of the greatest success stories of our time.There are Koreans today who can still remember when this country was little more than rice paddies and villages that would flood during monsoon season. Not two generations later, highways and skyscrapers line the horizon of one of the fastest-growing, most prosperous democracies in all the world – progress that has transformed the lives of millions.One of these people is a man who went from grinding poverty to the presidency of this country. When I visited last year, President Lee shared with me his story of what it was like to grow up poor as a child in Korea. And he said, “I hope the American people understand how grateful we are for what you’ve done, because we would not be the extraordinarily strong, prosperous nation we are were it not for the sacrifices made by the men and women of the United States military.”Because the Korean War ended where it began geographically, some used the phrase “Die for a Tie” to describe the sacrifice of those who fought here. But as we look around at this thriving democracy and its grateful, hopeful citizens, one thing is clear:This was no tie. This was a victory. It was a victory then, and it is a victory today. Sixty years later, a friendship that was forged in war has become an alliance that has led to greater security and untold progress – not only in the Republic of Korea, but throughout Asia. And that is something for everyone here to be extraordinarily proud of.But it is also a reminder of what still lies on the other side of the 38th parallel. Today, the Korean peninsula provides the world’s clearest contrast between a society that is open and one that is closed; between a nation that is dynamic and growing, and a government that would rather starve its people than change. It’s a contrast so stark you can see it from space, as the brilliant lights of Seoul give way to utter darkness in the north.This is not an accident of history. It is a direct result of the path that has been taken by North Korea – a path of confrontation and provocation; one that includes the pursuit of nuclear weapons and the attack on the Cheonan last March.In the wake of this aggression, Pyongyang should not be mistaken: the United States will never waver in our commitment to the security of the Republic of Korea. The alliance between our two nations has never been stronger, and along the with the rest of the world, we have made it clear that North Korea’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons will only lead to more isolation and less security.But there is another path available to North Korea. If they choose to fulfill their international obligations and commitments to the international community, they will have the chance to offer their people lives of growing opportunity instead of crushing poverty – a future of greater security and greater respect; a future that includes the prosperity and opportunity available to citizens on this end of the Korean peninsula.Until that day comes, the world can take comfort in knowing that the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces are standing watch on freedom’s frontier. In doing so, you carry on the legacy of service and sacrifice we saw from those who landed here all those years ago – a legacy we honor and cherish on this Veterans’ Day.At the Korean War Memorial in Washington, there is a plaque right near the inscription that lists the number of Americans who were killed, wounded, mission in action, and held as prisoners of war. It says “Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met.”A country they never knew and a people they never met. I know of no better words to capture the selflessness and generosity of every man or woman who has ever worn the uniform of the United States of America. At a time when it has never been more tempting or accepted to pursue narrow self-interest and personal ambition, you remind us that there are few things more American than doing what we can to make a difference in the lives of others. That is why you will always be the best that America has to offer the world. And that is why people who never met you and never knew you will always be grateful to the friend and ally they found in America. Thank you for your service, may God Bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.##