UNION COUNTY — A veteran of the war in Afghanistan shared his story while those who served in the Korean War received special honors as Union County paid tribute to its veterans on Veterans Day.
Monday was Veterans Day and, as it has for many years, Union County honored its veterans and their service to America with a parade and ceremony on Main Street in downtown Union.
Taking part in the parade were the county’s veterans as well as the Union County High School Color Guard and Unit and the Union Christian Day School Band. Local government and law enforcement officials also participated in the parade as did the winners of the Veterans Day poster and essay contests for Union County Day School and Buffalo Elementary, Monarch Elementary, Foster Park Elementary, Jonesville Elementary/Middle, Sims Middle, and Lockhart schools.
The parade was followed by the 11 a.m. ceremony which, as in every year, honored all the county’s local veterans with speeches and patriotic music. At this year’s ceremony, however, the county’s veterans of the Korean War received special honors in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the armistice that ended the fighting in that war.
Union County Veterans Affairs Officer Cindy Fore listed the honors the veterans were receiving including certificates from the Veterans Day Parade Committee, the office of U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, and the U.S. Department of Defense. They also received special medallions for their service during the Korean War era while those actually served in Korea itself during the war received a medal from DOD embedded with a piece of barbed wire from the border of the two Koreas.
In addition to these honors, each Korean War veteran was presented with a copy of a 160-page hardback coffee table book printed by the industry and government of South Korea. Fore said “Korea Reborn: A Grateful Nation Honors War Veterans for 60 Years of Growth” tells the story of the war and the 60 years since during which South Korea has became an extremely successful country. The book is an expression of South Korea’s gratitude to the American veterans who liberated and defended their country from communist North Korea giving them the chance to achieve the success and freedom they now enjoy.
Though the fighting on the Korean peninsula ended, wars have continued to be waged since then, some of them involving the United States of America. During Monday’s ceremony, those in attendance heard from a veteran of one of those wars about the terrible wounds he suffered in the defense of his country and his life since that time.
Jonesville resident Kevin Brewington was parade marshal for Monday’s parade and guest speaker at the ceremony. A veteran of the U.S. Army, Brewington addressed the crowd from his wheelchair as he told the story of how he lost his legs in Afghanistan.
Brewington began by talking about his decision to join the army when he was 19 in 2010. He described serving in the army as “a great experience” that could “change your life” and “give you great opportunities.”
After completing his training, Brewington was deployed in April 2011 to Afghanistan, a country he described as being “like they still live in a biblical era. It’s definitely a Third World country.”
Initially, Brewington said he and his fellow soldiers “policed” the area they were in for the first three months before being moved to a location closer to the border with Pakistan. Brewington said they arrived in time for “fighting season” which he said was when the weather starts getting warm and the Taliban resume waging war after the end of winter.
While on patrol during fighting season on Sept. 22, 2011, Brewington said he and fellow soldiers stopped at a store where they spoke with some of the locals. Though the conversation went smoothly, Brewington said the locals quickly fled the scene, a move which set off alarm bells for him and his fellow soldiers.
Despite this, Brewington said the patrol finished their sweep of the area and were returning to base when an IED (improvised explosive device) exploded. Brewington said all he could remember of the explosion was a big flash and a ringing in his ears. While he didn’t remember what happened next as his fellow soldiers rescued him and had him airlifted from the field, Brewington said he was later told that he’d been conscious the whole time.
Brewington was first flown to Kandahar where his legs were amputated and his right arm wrapped. He was then flown to Baghram and then to Germany. In addition to losing his legs and suffering injuries to his arm, Brewington said he had a collapsed lung and was on a ventilator for four days. At one point, Brewington said doctors cut open his abdomen to check for internal injuries.
In Germany, Brewington was reunited with his family and he flew back to the United States with his father on a military hospital jet while his mother and brothers returned home on a commercial flight. He was taken to a military hospital in Maryland where he would remain for 18 months.
“I’ve probably had over 50 surgeries,” Brewington said of the medical treatment he has had to undergo since being wounded. “I’ve been put to sleep about three times a week.”
Looking back on his experience, Brewington called it a “rough road I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.”
Brewington thanked the people of Union County for the support they’ve given to him and his family. He said since being wounded and returning home, he has worked to give back to the community.
“You’ve got to stay humble and accept what happened and give back to people,” Brewington said.
Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.