Area ex-Marine honored in Seoul


On Sept. 27, 1950, Marine Pvt. 1st Class Luther Leguire raised this U.S. Flag at the American consulate in Seoul, Korea, while fighting for the city raged around the compound.

Special to The Sun
Published: Saturday, January 12, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 12, 2008 at 12:00 a.m.

It all started by accident, but the Rev. Luther Leguire wouldn't change it for the world.

Marine Corps Lt. Col. Chuck Stevens found Leguire, a Korean War veteran and founder of the First Apostolic Church of Lake City, when he typed Leguire's name into a search engine merely to make sure he'd been spelling Leguire's name correctly.

Surprised to find out Leguire was still alive, Stevens invited him to attend the 232nd Marine Corps Birthday Ball in Seoul on Nov. 10 as an honored guest of Gen. Frank Panter, commander of U.S. Marine Corps forces in Korea.

Leguire quickly accepted, but what the 77-year-old pastor didn't know was that he would make his first trip back to Korea in more than 50 years to be presented with a medal and declared an "Ambassador for Peace" by the Korean government.

"When I got there, that's when I found out about everything," Leguire said. "Here were 750 people gathered together with 750 pictures of me. I was just beside myself."

The picture on the evening's program was a copy of a now-famous photograph of 19-year-old Leguire raising the American flag atop the American Consulate in western Seoul in a battle to push the Communist North Korean and Chinese armies back across the border into North Korea.

"Unbeknownst to me, they have had that picture put up all over Korea and other places for years," Leguire said. "They knew more about me than I did."

The photograph symbolizes the capture of the Korean capital by United Nations forces 12 days after landing on the beaches at Incheon in September 1950.

With the help of Virginia-based Military Historical Tours, Leguire was able to make the weeklong trip back to Korea with his 38-year-old daughter, Deanna, as his travel buddy.

"Even at my age, I was excited," Leguire said.

Leguire joined the Marine Corps when he was just 17 and spent his first few years in the service patroling the Mediterranean before being sent to Korea.

Not long after the flag-raising in Seoul, a bullet from the gun of a Chinese soldier shattered Leguire's right knee during a violent battle north of Kota-ri.

"I laid there for eight hours before the medics could get to me," Leguire said. "I was able to take off my belt and make a tourniquet."

All the troops in Leguire's squad were killed in the Kota-ri battle. Leguire returned to the U.S. in December 1950 and spent a little more than a year in and out of various hospitals before regaining full use of his leg.

"It was tough, but I was able to get around. Eventually I got out of the cast and into a wheelchair, and that's when the fun really began," Leguire laughed.

Leguire has spent the last 46 years as head of his Lake City congregation. Even though he's retired, he still carries his military I.D. and will celebrate his 60th year with the Marine Corps on Jan. 26.

But what Leguire is most proud of is the group of medics who helped save his life some 57 years ago.

"You never hear anything about our medics anymore," Leguire said. "I have the highest regard for those men who put themselves in double danger to save the lives of others."

Since arriving home from Korea in November, Leguire said he hasn't grown tired of sharing his experience with countless friends and members of his extended church family. He even has a DVD of him being introduced to an impressive standing ovation.

"It just really made my heart swell," Leguire said. "It was very special, very humbling. I can't say enough how much I appreciate the chance to go back."

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