National recognition for war veteran

Chemainus’s only Korean War veteran has received more recognition for his service.

Bill Boykowich, who was honoured by the government of South Korea with the Ambassador for Peace medal last year, received a certificate of recognition from the Government of Canada earlier this month. The document is signed by Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino and Minister of National Defence Robert Nicholson, and marks the Year of the Korean War Veteran in 2013.

Sixty years after the Korean War ended, Boykowich remains humbled by his part in the war, which included serving on the destroyer HMCS Sioux between 1951 and 1952.

"The contribution from the people of Canada and those who served at war in South Korea has made their country a better place to live," he said. "I am honoured for the recognition I received for the small role I played in that war."

In addition to the Ambassador for Peace medal last year, Boykowich has received letters of gratitude from former U.S. Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta and former President of Korea Lee Myung-bak.

The letter from Lee in 2010 included an invitation to visit the country as part of the Revisit Korea Program it has run since 1975. Unfortunately, the invitation came in the mail the same day Boykowich and his wife, Fran, learned that she had terminal cancer, and the trip never materialized.

"It’s too bad," Boykowich said. "We just didn’t make it."

Boykowich joined the navy in 1950 at the age of 16, altering his birth certificate to get in after deciding he had enough of farm life in Alberta. He spent five years in the navy, including his time in Korea.

While Boykowich is honoured to be remembered six decades after the war ended, he would like to see more recent veterans getting the same respect.

"The guys who come back from Afghanistan are getting a raw deal," he lamented.