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
The mayor of Mungyeong was at the ceremony to greet the troops and welcome them
"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
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:
• Women's Soccer
• Track & Field