Melese Tessema, Korean War veteran from Ethiopia, points himself out in a picture at a memorial in Chuncheon.
A day after the outbreak of the Korean War on June 25, 1950, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution to provide all support necessary to stop North Korea from invading the South.
In response, 16 U.N. allies sent troops to the peninsula to help South Koreans in their fight, including Ethiopia -- the only African nation to take part.
TBS spoke to Melesse Tessema, one of the some 130 surviving Ethiopian veterans, and his granddaughter, who stands as a living legacy of his service to this day.
Ron Chang reports.
In 1951, Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie decided to send over 6,000 troops to Korea.
They were part of Kagnew battalions, military units from the Imperial Ethiopian Army, which fought as part of the U.S.-led U.N. Command.
Melesse Tessema, now 92 years old, said he was deployed to the Korean Peninsula as a fresh academy graduate.
[Clip: Melese: 00:10]
"I was the first graduate from the military academy. As soon as I graduated, I immediately attended the Korean War. I was a platoon leader, second lieutenant."
Melesse said he remembers seeing Korea in ruins when he arrived.
[Clip: Melese: 00:10]
"When I was there, it was a very catastrophic nation, Korea. I arrived soon after the breakout of the war and so I saw many buildings damaged and children on the street crying...they lost their families."
Although it's been more than six decades since the fighting in Korea ended with an armistice, Melesse's connection to the country continues.
He is the head of the Ethiopia Korean War Veterans Association.
While South Korea honors him and thousands of other vets for their service, Melesse says he's grateful to South Korea, noting the recent donation of anti-coronavirus supplies Seoul sent last month to U.N. countries that took part in the war.
[Clip: Melese: 00:23]
"I would like to say thank you to the Korean people because after the war and presently also, they are helping us in everything and even this time, they sent us for veterans masks, COVID masks and I thank for that also for not forgetting us for such long time."
His granddaughter, Bethel Melesse Tessema, who received a scholarship from the Korean government to study in Seoul, also shared her appreciation.
[Clip: Bethel: 00:07]
"I am really grateful that they are helping us in return. They didn't have to but I am very grateful for that."
Bethel said she's proud of her grandfather and her home country for the sacrifices they made.
[Clip: Bethel: 00:22]
"He and other veterans, they were putting their life on the line not for their own country but for a faraway land they had never been to before. The winter especially was harsh and cold compared to my tropical home. So, I am very proud of my grandfather and other veterans carried out their duties in spite of these hardships."
South Korea will be forever indebted to Ethiopia as well as all those from other countries that helped fight for our freedom.
Please send comments to email@example.com / copyright © tbs. Unauthorized redistribution prohibited.