King City Korean War veteran receives Korean Ambassador Peace Medal

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Bob Lorenz (left), a member of the Korean War Veterans Association, and his wife Dorine recently met up with David Penaflor, who is president of the association’s Oregon Trail Chapter, and his wife Mindy. Barbara Sherman/Tigard Life
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The Korean War has regrettably been dubbed the “Forgotten War,” but it is still on the minds of those who served in the conflict, which raged from June 25, 1950, to July 27, 1953, and the U.S. American Armed Forces who have served there ever since, right through today.

At the July 29 Commemoration Ceremony at the Oregon Korean War Memorial in Wilsonville, Bob Lorenz received a Korean Ambassador Peace Medal from Eunji Seo, Consulate General of the ROK in Seattle. Barbara Sherman/Tigard Life

“People go straight from World War II to the Vietnam War,” said Bob Lorenz, who served with the U.S. Army in Korea from 1951 to 1952. But his service has not been forgotten. Lorenz, who lives in King City, was one of nine veterans to receive the Korean Ambassador Peace Medal on July 29 at a Commemoration Ceremony at the Oregon Korean War Memorial in Wilsonville.

The Korean War Memorial Foundation of Oregon hosted the event to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Korean War Armistice to end the fighting in the Korean War and the 70th anniversary of the alliance between the U.S. and the Republic of Korea. There also was a preview of the nearby Oregon Korean War Memorial Interpretive Center.

Lorenz moved to Oregon as a child. “I was born in South Dakota in 1936,” he said. “My dad was a watchmaker, but there wasn’t too much work during the Depression. The summer when I was 7 years old, my dad and mom, my uncle, and my little sister and me drove to Oregon in a 1932 Chevrolet pulling a trailer. It was like ‘The Grapes of Wrath.’ It took us two weeks to get to Oregon.”

Why Oregon? “We took Highway 30, and it ended in Troutdale,” Lorenz said. “We stopped at Mount Rushmore. They had two figures done and were working on the third one. They hadn’t started on the fourth one. A guy on the nose of one of them looked like a fly.”

Bob Lorenz was stationed in ‘No Man’s Land’ in Korea but managed to find this scraggly “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree for the holiday season.
Bob Lorenz was stationed in ‘No Man’s Land’ in Korea but managed to find this scraggly “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree for the holiday season.

Within two weeks of arriving in Oregon, Lorenz’s dad got a job as a watchmaker at Montgomery Ward, later opened his own shop and eventually sold real estate. Lorenz attended Jefferson High School from 1943 to 1947, and in October 1950 he was drafted into the Army. “The Korean War had started, and I was put in the Artillery and learned to shoot 105mm Howitzers,” he said.

Lorenz was part of the 45th Division, and after training, he boarded a ship in New Orleans in January 1951 and went to Japan and then Korea. “There were 5,000 guys on the ship, and the bunks were five high,” he said.

His division was stationed north of Seoul in the Iron Triangle, “and as far as I’m concerned, it was the middle of nowhere,” Lorenz said. Just like the 1970s TV show “M*A*S*H,” the base was made up of tents – sleeping tents, cook tents, latrine tents and others.

“There was a little stove in each sleeping tent and a can of diesel,” Lorenz said. “If the diesel ran out during the night, it got cold in the winter. But we ate good. We had our own cooks.”

North Korea was supported by the Chinese and Soviet Union, “and the Chinese and us were one mile apart,” Lorenz said. “It was called ‘No Man’s Land.’ There was constant artillery fire back and forth. I was in a field artillery battery somewhere in the rear. A truck would pick up the ammo and haul it to the firing batteries. We were going non-stop.”

Bob Lorenz served in the U.S. Army’s 45th Division in Korea.
Bob Lorenz served in the U.S. Army’s 45th Division in Korea.

A touch of home arrived when Lorenz’s dad sent him a birthday cake through regular mail. “It took two weeks and was not much good,” he said.

The peace talks to end the war were going on while Lorenz was in Korea, and the troops basically had to wait them out. The Korean Armistice Agreement that was signed on July 27, 1953, created the Korean Demilitarized Zone that divided the country, but no peace treaty has ever been signed.

Lorenz was rotated back to the States and home by July 1953. He attended Portland State University for two years and then went to work for the railroad, working for 30 years in sales.

Right by his side has been his wife of 40 years, Dorine. They met when he went to the hospital for surgery on his nose. She was his pre-surgery nurse, hooking up his IV and giving him his meds. He tried to ask her out but she was cautious, so after he left the hospital, he called back and left his number for her.

Dorine called Lorenz, but she drove her own car to their first date, where he sang in a barbershop quartet competition in Hillsboro. They had both been married before – he had twins, and she had five children, including a set of twins – and after five or six years of dating, they married. They now have 18 grandchildren and a 13th great-grandchild on the way. After living in Tigard for 30 years, they moved to King City five years ago.

Climbing rope ladders was part of the Army training for Bob Lorenz.
Climbing rope ladders was part of the Army training for Bob Lorenz.

Lorenz is a member of the Korean War Veterans Association, and David Penaflor, who did two tours in South Korea between 1975 and 1977, is president of the association’s Oregon Trail Chapter that meets every fourth Tuesday at the Holiday Inn in Wilsonville at 11:30 a.m.

“These guys are so humble,” Penaflor said of veterans like Lorenz. “They say they are not heroes, the real heroes are still over there and didn’t come back. But they paved the way. It’s about respecting them and taking over the reins. But I am happy that we get to honor them and remember them. It’s wonderful that Bob (was) recognized at the commemoration ceremony.”

The Oregon Korean War Memorial, which was completed in 2000, was created to honor Korean War veterans and to educate the public, especially young people, about the Korean War and the lessons that were learned.

The memorial features a 109-foot-long granite wall that includes the names of 298 Oregonians who died or were listed as missing in action in the war. Gov. Tina Kotek spoke at the ceremony and received a peace medal for her late father, Jerry A. Kotek, who served in the Korean conflict.

For more information, contact Penaflor at 503-312-5498 or davepena4@gmail.com.

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