"The Column" at the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C. is a statue featuring 14 figures from the U.S. Army, three Marines, one Navy Corpsman and one Air Force Forward Air Observer. (U.S. Army National Guard/Spc. Stephen Wright)

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MANSFIELD — Few know the horrors of war better than a soldier.

Dr. Jay Haar knows them from both the civilian and military side.

The long-time Mansfield psychiatrist was a 10-year-old living with his family in Seoul, South Korea, on June 25, 1950 when North Korean forces crossed the 38th Parallel and invaded his country.

Three days later, the North Koreans captured Seoul, the capital of South Korea, about 34 miles south of the 38th Parallel.

It was territory occupied by the North Koreans until U.S. forces led by Gen. Douglas McArthur landed at Inchon nearly three months later.

It was the start of a three-year war that ended in 1953 with an armistice. No permanent peace treaty has ever been signed.

Dr. Jay Haar

Known now as “The Forgotten War,” the Korean War Veterans Association Chapter 51 in Mansfield has scheduled two public events this month to mark the 70th anniversary of the armistice signed at Panmunjom on July 27, 1953.

The first will be an event on Thursday, July 27, from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Mid-Ohio Conference Center, 890 W. 4th St.

Maj. Gen. Deborah Ashenhurst (Ret.)

Major General (Retired) Deborah Ashenhurst retired from the U.S. Army and the National Guard in October 2015 after over 37 years of service.

She served at all levels of command and in 2011 was appointed to the gubernatorial-level cabinet position of adjutant general of the State of Ohio, commanding the 17,000 service members of the Ohio National Guard, the Ohio Naval Militia and the Ohio Military Reserve.

She served as adjutant general until January of 2015. Her career culminated in service as a special assistant to the vice chief, National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C.

Prior to her appointment as the adjutant general, she was a 25-year federal employee in various positions of increasing responsibility with the United States Property and Fiscal Office with the Ohio National Guard.

Upon retirement from the military, Ashenhurst served as the senior vice president, military strategy with R2 Associates.

She served as a commissioner on the Ohio Military Facilities Commission and served as a member of the Synod Council of the Southern Ohio Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.

Ashenhurst lives with her husband, Colonel (Retired) Jim Ashenhurst in Hilliard, Ohio.

Maj. General Deborah Ashenhurst, who retired from the U.S. Army and the National Guard in October 2015 after more than 37 years of service, will be the primary speaker.

The event will also include music, a candle-lighting ceremony, poetry and a presentation on the history of the Korean War.

The second event will be a free screening on Saturday, July 29, of the 2022 movie “Devotion,” an aerial war epic based on the bestselling book of the same name.

It tells the harrowing true story of two U.S. Navy fighter pilots during the Korean War. Their heroic sacrifices would ultimately make them the Navy’s most celebrated wingmen.

The movie will be shown at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. in Riedl Hall on the campus of OSU-Mansfield. There will also be a 1:30 p.m. panel discussion led by OSU Professor Joseph Fahy.

Those interested in attending the film can call the movie box office 419-755-4045.

It’s estimated that nearly five million people died during the war on the Korean Peninsula — military and civilians. In fact, the civilian death rate was higher than that seen in World War II and Vietnam.

Korean War

There were 6.8 million American men and women who served during the Korean War period, June 27, 1950 to Jan. 31, 1955, according to the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs.

There were 54,200 deaths to Americans in service during the period of hostilities, June 27, 1950, to July 27, 1953. Of these, 33,700 were actual battle deaths.

Devotion poster

Haar said it’s important Americans today remember these sacrifices.

“It has been so many years ago. People today, especially young people, don’t really know much about the Korean War,” said Haar, who joined the local KWVA as an honorary member and is now the secretary of the organization.

“The generations change … most know about Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. It is important that people be educated about the Korean War and the heavy price that was paid … so many casualties,” Haar said.

His own memories burn bright.

“For three months, we were living in a captured city,” Haar recalled. “We lived with the enemy all around us. There were no freedoms — no school, no church, groceries. Everyone just closed their doors.”

Haar saw his father, a high school vice principal, held with a gun to his head by North Korean soldiers demanding to know where missionaries and American advisors had fled.

“They arrested my dad and demanded he tell where everyone was hiding. He didn’t know where they were. He didn’t even know they had all left.

“He could have been killed, but my brave mom jumped in said ‘You cannot do this to innocent people. He is just a teacher and has nothing to do with the administration.’

“So they released him and told him to find the missing people. He couldn’t find them and he didn’t want to tell them anything. Instead, we just escaped from our house and went into hiding,” Haar said.

Haar said most men tried to hide. Many were taken and used as soldiers or laborers to support the North Korean effort.

“Anyone who didn’t cooperate would be shot on the spot. We heard crying all over the city. I saw many bodies on the streets,” he said. “We lived in a very panicked situation and I don’t forget all of those things.”

More Information

If you questions or want more information about upcoming events to mark the 70th anniversary of the Korean War armistice, contact Dr. Jay Haar at 419-989-0580 or email him at jhaar2011@gmail.com

It was not his only brush with war.

Haar later attended medical school in South Korea at the Kyungpook National University College of Medicine and entered mandatory military service. He ended up serving in the military corps during the Vietnam War from 1969-1972.

The bonds he developed with American service members during those years made Haar want to come to the United States. He has practiced in Mansfield since 1973.

“When I came here, I was not thinking about staying here forever,” he said. “I wanted to go back to South Korea. But soon, we had children in school here and we didn’t want to move them to a new country.”

City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when...

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