Lt. Gen. Willard M. Burleson Awarded Gukseon Medal for Strengthening South Korea-U.S. Alliance

SEOUL - In a significant recognition of his efforts to fortify the South Korea-U.S. military alliance, Lt. Gen. Willard M. Burleson, the outgoing commander of the U.S. 8th Army, was honored with the Gukseon Medal by the South Korean government on Monday.

According to Yonhap News Agency, Defense Minister Shin Won-sik presented the award, the second-highest in the Order of National Security Merit, during a ceremony held at the ministry's headquarters in Seoul.

Burleson, who has led the U.S. 8th Army since October 2020, is slated to depart from his position on Friday. The ministry praised his tenure for enhancing the combined defense posture of South Korea and the United States, particularly amid challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and escalating nuclear and missile threats from North Korea. Noteworthy are the allies' combined exercises under Burleson's command, including major joint exercises conducted last year and this year at unprecedented scales, which have significantly improved interoperability between the two forces.

In addition to honoring his contributions, Minister Shin called upon Burleson to continue fostering the development of the bilateral alliance following his retirement. The U.S. general assured his ongoing support for such efforts. Burleson, who is set to retire in May after 36 years of military service, will be succeeded by Lt. Gen. Christopher C. LaNeve, formerly the commander of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division. In a separate event last Friday, the Association of Korea-U.S.A. Friendship Alliance bestowed upon Burleson an honorary Korean name, Bae Il-woo, as a gesture of appreciation for his service.

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