Canadian Veteran to be buried in United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Busan with full military honours

Soldat John Joseph Jean Robert Cormier
Publication Date 
20 Jun 2022

From “The Korean War Veteran” June 19, 2022

A Canadian Korean War Veteran will be buried in the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Busan on Tuesday, June 22, three days before the 72nd anniversary of the June 25, 1950 start of the Korean War.

Soldat John Joseph Jean Robert Cormier will be the 13th veteran from one of the overseas nations that served with United Nations Forces during the 1950-1953 war to be laid to rest in the veterans section of the expansive cemetery in the Nam-gu district of Busan.

Originally from Moncton, New Brunswick, Soldat Cormier had served with the French speaking Royal 22e Regiment du Canada. He was wounded in a patrol action in October, 1952 when units of his regiment were holding positions near Hill 355, also referred to as Little Gibraltar and Magdar.

Twenty-five years ago, he had to take permanent residence in the Veterans Wing of Sunnybrook Hospital (now called the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre) in Toronto. Soldat Cormier passed away there at age 89 on November 24, 2021. His ashes were kept in Canada until arrangements were made with Korea’s Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs for his burial in Korea.

Captain (Navy) Jill Marrack, the Canadian Defence Attaché and her team at the Canadian Embassy in Seoul handled arrangements and negotiations with the MPVA and the UN Memorial Cemetery.

Soldat Cormier’s ashes will be officially received into Korea at Incheon International Airport in an impressive military ceremony on Monday evening by Korea’s newly appointed Minister of Patriots and Veterans Affairs, Park Minshik.

Soldat Cormier’s ashes and six of his family members will be escorted as they officially enter Korea by a mixed guard of honour made up of serving members of Korea’s Navy, Army, Marine Corps and Air Force. 

Soldat Cormier’s ashes will remain overnight at the Canadian Embassy in Seoul. The next day Captain Marrack and Sergeant Pratchler will escort the ashes to the UN Memorial Cemetery in Busan by high-speed KTX bullet train early on Tuesday morning, 22 June.

The burial service is scheduled to begin at 1330 hours. The burial ceremony will be attended by a United Nations Command Honor Guard, bugler, and firing party. Canada’s chargé d'affaires from the Canadian Embassy will say words on behalf of the Government of Canada during the service.

Captain Marrack notes that, while the MPVA is subsidizing the airfare and hotel and living expenses for two members of Soldat Cormier’s family, in line with its policies, four other members of his family are travelling to Korea at their own expense to participate in the services.

Whether any of them will be invited to also participate in some of the MPVA revisit programs that are taking place at the same time, including the National Ceremony commemorating the 72nd anniversary of the June 25, 1950 start of the Korean War, is not known at this point.

Captain Marrack has a special connection with Soldat Cormier’s beloved regiment, Royale 22e Regiment du Canada (R22eR), colloquially known as the Vandoos (Vingt-Deux). For 10 years she was stationed in Quebec City when she was deputy commander of Canada’s Naval Reserve. Quebec City houses the Citadelle fortress, which is the R22eR headquarters. She participated in many ceremonial events with the Regiment during her tenure in Quebec.

Soldat John Cormier is the second Canadian veteran to be interred in the veteran’s section of the UN Cemetery. Private Albert Hugh McBride, who served as a tank driver with The Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) was buried there in 2019.

Another of the12 veterans now buried in the veterans' section is Sergeant William Speakman, who was awarded the Victoria Cross by Queen Elizabeth II in 1952, for heroism in the Battle of Empire Hill in November 1951.

Bill said many times that all six soldiers he served with during the enemy attack should have also received recognition; that he only did the same thing that they did. He said he missed them and thought of them every day. He had hoped to be buried on the hill where they fought but gladly chose the UN Memorial as his final resting place.

Until his death at age 90 on June 20, 2018, Sergeant Speakman was the president of the British Korean War Veterans Association.

Traditionally, the Korean Government pays for transportation of the ashes of the deceased veteran and two immediate family members to Korea, and covers their local transportation and accommodation expenses.

Veterans from all nations can avail themselves of the honour of being buried in the UN Cemetery by having somebody contact the defence attaché at the embassy of their own nation in Seoul and providing essential information about the veteran’s service and wishes.

It is of note that at the same time Soldat John Cormier’s ashes are in flight to Korea, Korea’s Prime Minister Han Duck-soo will be making a presentation to the Bureau International des Expositions in Paris, in a bid to make the Busan metropolis the host city for the World Expo 2030, a colossal world’s fair. Many nations are competing for the honour of becoming the official host.

All veterans, all who served in Korea, and all comrades who fell in the war, are in part responsible for giving the great nation the freedom to evolve from a humble agrarian state in the 1950s to the dynamic, industrialized, modern nation that it has become through the efforts of its resourceful, indefatigable people.

Korea hosted the Summer Olympic Games in 1968, the Winter Olympics in 2018, the FIFA World Cup (with Japan) in 2002, and now stands fully ready to host the 2030 world trade fair, Expo 2039 at Busan in 2030.

The United Nations Memorial Cemetery is located in the Nam Gu district of Busan, where the UN Peace Memorial Peace Hall is also located. That region of Busan has been designated by the UN as a “Peace and Culture Zone for the United Nations.”