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Korean War veterans wary of nuclear threats

The fighting in their war ended more than 60 years ago, but there has not been a lot of peace for Korean War veterans.

To begin with, there is no signed peace treaty ending the conflict, and U.S. forces are still stationed along the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea.

The war, which many Americans did not understand, killed 36,574 and wounded 103,284. Today, 7,747 Americans remain missing in action.

For decades after the war, those who fought in the conflict had to deal with being veterans of what was known as “The Forgotten War,” overlooked for the heroes of World War II and the controversy of Vietnam.

Today, as their numbers dwindle at a slightly slower rate than World War II veterans, they look back at the peninsula on which they fought and hear the sounds of conflict again.

“I watch what is going on with North Korea every night,” Korea veteran Paul O’Keefe of Mechanicville said of Kim Jong-un, the North Korean president, who has been testing missiles and making threats about using nuclear weapons. “We need to get that maniac before he gets us. He’s dangerous. He wants to get even with us, but I think we’re ready.”

Roger Calkins, who, like O’Keefe, spoke to middle and high schoolers at Argyle Central School last week, agreed with his fellow veteran.

“We’re all very concerned about what’s going on over there,” said Calkins. “I think that the president has a strong position on it and is not going to let North Korea push us around; I like that. The people there can’t do anything. It’s all the generals.”

Earl Seelow of Corinth was not at the Argyle presentation, but in a telephone interview Thursday, he said the same thing.

“I pay a lot of attention to what’s going on with that idiot in the north,” he said of Kim Jong-un.

Ironically, there was a threat of nuclear strikes during the Korean War, which began with the North Korean invasion of South Korea in 1950. Hostilities ended in 1953, but not before Gen. Douglas MacArthur called for President Harry Truman to use nuclear weapons against the Chinese when they came into the war.

MacArthur had pulled off a brilliant invasion of Inchon, South Korea, cutting off some of the invading troops, but his insistence on nuclear response led Truman to fire him.

Seelow, who served on the front lines late in the war, recounted something that happened to him when he had the chance to go to Washington, D.C., on an Honor Flight several years ago.

“I went into the Korean War Memorial and there was a teenager, a college student from Korea, there,” he said. “She came up to me and hugged me and thanked me for saving her country so she could come here and do what she was doing.”

Mary Kuelzow, whose late husband, Jim, fought at the Chosin Reservoir, said they visited South Korea more than a decade ago.

“The people just love the U.S. there,” she said. “They are just so appreciative of what we did for them. They have not forgotten.”

Telling the story

This past week, members of the Korean War Veterans of America visited the Argyle and Lake George school districts.

Local commander Bruce Blackie said school visits are very important.

“It gives the students a more personal perspective, and it teaches them about a war that many people do not know about or understand,” said Blackie, whose group was invited to Argyle by Superintendent Michael Healey, who saw the group speak when he was in Galway.

The special guests also told the story of what Korean War veterans went through then and what they have gone through since.

“There was no ‘Victory in Korea Day,’ “ Blackie, of Saratoga Springs, said when he started Tuesday’s presentation at Argyle. “World War II had affected everybody, and then we had five years of peace. Quite frankly, everyone preferred peace and prosperity. The average American felt little impact from the war.”

Calkins said much the same thing.

“We had all lived through World War II,” he said. “It was a horrific war, and when it was over, we all breathed a sigh of relief.”

The veterans’ stories told of an unexpected attack, confusion, counterattack, the unexpected incursion of the Chinese, and then stalemate.

No one seemed to expect the attack of the North Koreans, who drove well into the south, pinning the South Koreans in Pusan.

The U.S. and United Nations counterattacked, but the American armed forces were far fewer than they had been at the end of World War II, and suddenly there was another draft.

“After World War II, I thought we could live in peace with no more war. I was wrong,” O’Keefe said. “We got a letter called ‘Greetings’ and it was our draft notice. I was up in Lake George with the Mechanicville basketball team and my girlfriend brought it to me.”

O’Keefe found out he had to be a fast learner.

“I had never even fired a BB gun before, but you learn fast when you have a big-mouth sergeant pushing you around,” he said. “And when we got there, we found the winters were 40 and 50 below zero. Sometimes, it was too cold to dig a foxhole.”

Seelow’s experience when he arrived in Korea was an example of what many soldiers experienced.

“I went, and I arrived at Inchon Harbor and they told me I would be with the 25th Division guarding prisoners in Pusan,” he said of the allied city at the other end of the peninsula. I got on the train, then they told me I would be in the 2nd Infantry holding the area behind the front lines. Before I knew it, I was on the front lines, in an area called The Boomerang, in the Kuma Valley, where some of the heaviest fighting was.”

He remained on the front lines even beyond the ceasefire.

“They stopped the fighting, and we had to move the front lines two miles back,” Seelow said. “I was there until August of 1954, then I came back.”

Bob Garland of Glenville, who came to the U.S. from Canada, was also drafted. And instead of opting for a safer military specialty, he became a member of the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat team.

“They sent us up north, beyond the 38th Parallel,” said Garland, whose unit wound up near Pork Chop Hill, the site of some of the bloodiest battles of the war. “The Chinese would come at us at night, blowing the bugle. I wound up making three combat jumps, including one at Taegu, where there were 4,000 of us, plus Jeeps and guns going down in parachutes.”

Garland went on to stay in the Army, fought in Vietnam as well, and received a Bronze Star.

Seelow, 84, was drafted on his birthday in 1952 and became a sergeant gunner on a 57-millimeter recoilless rifle.

“My dad is my hero and I am who I am today because of him,” said his son, Dean Seelow, who served in the 1970s aboard the aircraft carrier USS America and did three cruises in the Mediterranean Sea. “I was so glad to see him in that parade.”

Service providers discuss challenges in helping the homeless

A iPhone or an alarm clock is probably how a majority of people wake themselves up in the morning.

But if you’re homeless, forget an iPhone. And where is one supposed to plug in an alarm clock when your home is a tent?

Yet homeless people are expected to make it to work, to school, to their services and appointments. And there’s a stigma that when a homeless person isn’t on time or where they’re supposed to be, they’re being lazy or messing up.

But maybe they just didn’t have an alarm clock to wake them up after countless sleepless nights.

That was the level of reality that was shared Wednesday night by three individuals who have experienced homelessness. Hannah, a homeless veteran who has a 6-year-old daughter; Johnna; and Jolenta, whose last names were held for confidentiality reasons, shared their experiences of living on the streets in front of nearly 65 people at Crandall Public Library as part of homelessness awareness month.

All three speakers had been homeless for an extended period of time, some for over a year. They slept in the woods and battled anxiety and depression that worsened with their situations. But each said that without the services they received, they wouldn’t be where they are today.

Johnna got extensive mental health care and is back in college. Hannah is an assistant preschool teacher, and Jolenta is a manager at a restaurant.

“It’s important to me that people know about the programs that are out there, because I wouldn’t be where I am today without them,” Jolenta said.

Homelessness comes in many forms, and it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why or how one becomes homeless or stays homeless. The struggle homeless people face day to day is no secret, including the fight for housing, food, proper hygiene, communication and basic resources.

But the reality of the challenges that service providers face are perhaps not as known.

The Office of Community Services hosted the awareness event and invited five expert panelists to give their professional perspectives and answer questions on the scope of homelessness.

A Warren County sheriff, a commissioner from the Washington County Department of Social Services, a landlord, a case manager from WAIT House and a worker from Soldier On, a program to end veteran homelessness, offered their advice on homelessness and different ways to help. Duane Vaughn, executive director of the Tri-County United Way, was the evening’s moderator.

By the end of the hour-long event, panelists nor the homeless had the over-arching solution to end the ongoing problem. But the night aimed to promote dialogue on the growing issue and offered insight on homelessness from the service providers’ point of view.

Tammy DeLorme, from the Washington County Department of Social Services, shed light on how many homeless people the department served last year. About 206 homeless single adults and 112 homeless families were placed, according to DeLorme. She said those numbers were overwhelming and isn’t sure they will decrease anytime soon.

Last year, 268 people were identified as experiencing homelessness in a survey of Saratoga, Washington, Warren and Hamilton counties.

For DeLorme, filling out paperwork when someone is trying to access services, finding affordable housing, finding people before they face eviction and helping with job placement are among the challenges she deals with on a daily basis.

“We just try to plug the gaps people present us with,” DeLorme said.

Warren County Undersheriff Shawn Lamouree said law enforcement’s main mission and challenge is to ensure the well-being and safety of the homeless. He noted that outdoor temperatures become a concern this time of year, and in the past they have brought the homeless to the Code Blue shelter.

Sarah Rowell, a youth case manager at WAIT house, said family conflict is a large contributor to youth homelessness and bridging the gap within the household is the hard part.

Family conflict can range from a lack of emotional resources to financial resources.

“Being a youth is already a natural state of crisis, and when it’s exacerbated by some of those factors — family conflict, not having that support system — it can really lead to homelessness,” Rowell said.

As many as 2.5 million youth per year experience homelessness, according to the National Center on Family Homelessness.

From a landlord’s perspective, staying in contact with his tenants is an enormous task.

Daniel Girard, a Ward 1 Warren County supervisor and landlord, spoke about the barriers that prevent homeless people from finding housing. He rents rooms out to people for $100 to $150 a week, depending on their financial circumstance. Girard calls the challenges he sees homeless people face “the fundamentals we take for granted.”

Housing, nutrition, hygiene, safety and communication skills are just a few of those fundamentals.

“Getting and staying in touch with the homeless is one of my biggest challenges. If anyone wants to help an individual, it’s hard locating them. And it’s hard to locate them or get a hold of them when they don’t have a phone,” Girard said.

He admitted that he sometimes adds to the homeless problem because if someone doesn’t have income to pay rent but another does, he’s forced to put them on the street.

Audience members asked the panelists how to help the homeless community. Ideas were tossed out like visiting a church or local shelter and volunteering.

Dominick Sondrini, who spoke on behalf of Solider On, said helping doesn’t have to be hard: “Just listening and having a little bit of love in you for the person sitting across from you goes a long way,” he said.

Veteran homelessness has declined in the state over the past five years, according to a report issued last week by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

In 2016, the number of homeless veterans decreased from 5,765 in 2011 to 1,248 individuals in New York, a decrease of 78.4 percent during the time frame, according to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Girard said educating yourself is the best way to help.

“You all being here tonight is it,” Girard said. “We can all learn more about the issues surrounding homelessness and find more ways to help. We all have a lot to learn.”

Will Alabama pick a Democrat over Moore? Suburbs will decide

ALABASTER, Ala. — It's no secret that if Roy Moore is going to lose his race for U.S. Senate, it's going to happen in Alabama's suburbs. And on Friday, a day after allegations emerged that the outspoken Christian conservative had sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl decades ago, at least a few Republicans in one Birmingham suburb were having second thoughts about their party's nominee.

"Really and truly, I cannot tell you what I'm going to do right now," said Carolyn Griffin, of Calera, as she watched her dog Loxy exercise at Alabaster's Veterans Park.

Griffin is the kind of voter who might be moved by the allegations, and suburban Shelby County is where other likeminded voters are located. While Alabama might be called the Heart of Dixie, much of Shelby County is Anysuburb USA, with subdivisions and strip malls sprawling ever farther south along traffic-choked highways leading out of Birmingham.

The accusations against Moore come as Democrats are feeling increasingly optimistic about their strength in suburbs after Tuesday's elections in Virginia, New Jersey and other races. Still, it's a steep, steep climb in Alabama. No Democrat has held a U.S. Senate seat there since 1997, when Howell Heflin retired.

Moore has been considered the strong favorite as a Republican running in a deeply red state, and polls taken before the Washington Post story showed him with a lead over Democratic challenger Doug Jones in the Dec. 12 race.

But Moore, a polarizing figure within his own state, has typically underperformed other Republicans in general-election races, giving rise to Democrats' hope of a victory against him in the off-year election.

"There was a universe in Alabama that was uncomfortable with him, all while Republicans were gaining in Alabama," Birmingham-based Democratic pollster John Anzalone said. "These allegations now give these voters a reason to vote against him or stay home."

The 70-year-old Moore, a former state Supreme Court judge, was twice removed from the Alabama Supreme Court, once for disobeying a federal court order to remove a 5,200-pound granite Ten Commandments monument from the lobby of the state judicial building and later for urging state probate judges to defy the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage.

He has vehemently denied accusations that he had sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl and pursued three other teenagers when he was an assistant district attorney in his early 30s.

He repeated his denial Saturday while speaking to the Mid Alabama Republican Club in Vestavia Hills outside Birmingham.

"There are investigations going on. In the next few days, there will be revelations about the motivations and the content of this article that will be brought to the public," Moore said without elaborating. "We fully expect the people of Alabama to see through this charade."

David Mowery, an Alabama-based political campaign consultant who helped run a Democrat's unsuccessful campaign against Moore in 2012, said the allegations against Moore are damaging but aren't necessarily a death blow.

"I think it hurts. It hurts because they are having to divert time and effort and probably money into killing it," Mowery said. "Can they turn the page, so to speak, and turn it back to a D versus R thing?"

"There's an old saying that the only way some candidates could lose is to be caught with a dead girl or a live boy. Alabama is going to test the specs on that like 'Hold my beer,'" Mowery said.

The state's eight most populous counties have almost as many people as the other 59 combined, and those are among the areas where Moore was weakest in the primary against Sen. Luther Strange, appointed to the Senate on an interim basis after Jeff Sessions was elevated to U.S. attorney general.

Former state Republican Party chairman Marty Connors said he expected the impact of the allegations to be concentrated in the suburbs.

"It will affect what I call your really, really moderate Republican voters," Connors said.

But not everyone in the suburbs is ready to abandon Moore. Frank Pimintel of Alabaster said he viewed the allegations as part of a typical political smear campaign and wouldn't judge Moore for something that happened more than 30 years ago.

"I'm about states' rights, low taxes, local control. He stands for a lot of things that I believe in," Pimintel said.

That's more along the lines of the reaction that Connors and retired University of Alabama political science professor Bill Stewart expect rural voters to have.

"In rural Alabama, they don't seem to be putting a lot of stock in this story," Stewart said. "They don't believe it."

Connors said the accusations could even energize supporters, similar to how President Donald Trump survived audio of him bragging about groping women.

Mark Victory of Alabaster counted himself as still "tentatively in the Moore camp" after the claims.

Victory said he wants to support Trump's agenda but might be swayed by more proof. If there is more proof, he said, his reaction would be to not vote at all.

"I'm not going to vote for his opponent," Victory said, saying he believes Jones is too submissive to the agenda of national Democratic leaders.