U.S. troops stand beside Vietnamese Soldiers at World Games

By Gary Sheftick | Armed Forces Sports | September 29, 2015

MUNGYEONG, South Korea - Vietnamese troops stood side by side today with U.S. service members at the opening ceremony of Mungyeong Athlete's Village as delegations began arriving here for the Military World Games.

More than 7,000 athletes from 103 nations will participate in the 6th Conseil International du Sport Militaire, or CISM World Games, in and around Mungyeong, South Korea. The games are held every four years and this time the U.S. will field 16 teams in sports that range from track and field to basketball, martial arts and soccer.

The U.S. vs Republic of Korea soccer match will be the first sporting event, taking place Sept. 30, even before the official opening of the games. So the U.S. Armed Forces men's soccer team was the first American squad to arrive in Korea. Only they and soldiers from the Vietnamese Army stood in front of the stage for the opening ceremony of Mungyeong Athlete's Village.

A Korean television reporter asked Army Staff Sgt. Chris Krueger how it felt to stand beside Vietnamese troops 50 years after American service members fought in that nation. Krueger - a soccer player and member of the 3rd Infantry Division from Fort Stewart, Georgia - reminded the reporter of the CISM motto: friendship through sports.

"It's a great experience being together with other nations," he said, adding that friendship through sports helps keep world peace. "Together through sports is a great way to create a relationship with other nations."

The mayor of Mungyeong was at the ceremony to greet the troops and welcome them to Korea.

"We should all be you who preserve the peace and share friendship and love through sports," said Mayor Yun Hwan Ko through an interpreter. He wished the troops fond memories of their stay in Korea.

Krueger went up on stage to greet the mayor. On behalf of the U.S. delegation, he accepted a gift:
two small replicas of the Military World Games mascots -- Haeraon and Haeraoni -- birds who, according to ancient Korean mythology, live inside the sun.

The birds represent "Soldiers of the Sun -- ensuring peace, friendship and harmony," reads host-nation literature. The birds each have three legs and those legs represent the three military branches -- the Army, Navy and Air Force, all collaborating together. The mascots were designed to be "friendly guardian angels" of the festival with the mission of spreading happiness.

Two nearly-six-foot likenesses of Haeraon and Haeraoni were spreading happiness among service members at the ceremony. They were hugging the troops and posing for photographs with them.

U.S. service members also posed for photos with the Vietnamese troops. They posed together up on stage as a unit, and down on the field in small groups.

"It's good not just to participate, but to interact," said Army Capt. Andrew Hyres, an aviation-support company commander at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, and one of two player-captains of the U.S. Armed Forces Men's Soccer Team.

Along with men's soccer, U.S. service members will compete in the following sports at the games:

• Archery
• Basketball
• Cycling
• Wrestling
• Women's Soccer
• Golf
• Parachuting
• Triathlon
• Judo
• Sailing
• Track & Field
• Marathon
• Shooting

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