Korean War Veterans - Lone Star ChapterJune 22, 2021
RICHARD HALFERTY: ‘The Forgotten War’ in Korea
Remembrances of veterans' sacrifices are glaringly absent
June 25 marks the 65th anniversary of the start of the Korean War. Will the nation remember the war? It was not remembered on Memorial Day 2015. At the Memorial Day celebration on the National Mall in Washington D.C., there was not one reference to the Korean War. The “greatest generation” was seated on the stage. Vietnam veterans were called out. Wounded warriors of Iraq and Afghanistan were recognized. Letters were read. In Washington and in the Memorial Day ceremonies around the country, the Korean War did not exist.
As the Texas Lone Star Chapter of Korean War Veterans color guard paraded at the Houston National Cemetery, applause heralded them as they passed by. However, in the speeches by elected officials, not one reference was made to the Korean War. In ceremonies across the country, talk of the “greatest generation,” Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan prevailed. At the Fort Bliss Memorial Day commemoration, there was not one mention of the Korean War. Veterans from California, Connecticut, Florida and Texas report their ceremonies contained no mention of Korea. A combat veteran in Connecticut rode in the parade in a car, sat right in the front of the podium to hear the speakers talk of every conflict except Korea. Throughout the country it was the same.
In October 1951, U.S. News & World Report called it the “Forgotten War.” That appellation has continued to be the one used to describe the so-called “police action.” It was not so much forgotten as no one thought about it at all. Today, unfortunately, not much has changed.
Korean veterans wonder what we have to do make the sacrifice of our brothers known. At the 65th anniversary of the start of the war that has never ended, the Korean War veteran still remains unremembered. No peace treaty has ever been signed. Throughout the years following the armistice, troops still are fired upon and die on the demilitarized zone. So the war continues.
Most Americans were not born the three score and five years ago when U.S. troops went to fight in a land they had never heard of, for a people that they did not know. Roughly 150,000 U.S. troops were killed or wounded during this three-year war, or on average 1,000 per week. Yet they remain part of the “Forgotten War.” They were not part of the greatest generation. There were no parades to recognize their sacrifices. Nor were there protests welcoming them back. The Veterans of Foreign Wars organization initially denied membership to Korean War veterans because “they did not serve in a war.” It was as if no one even knew they were away. They came home on a train or a bus, sometimes met by family, sometimes they just showed up at the door of the family home. They took off their uniforms and went on with their lives. It is instructive to note that the Korean War Veterans Association was not founded until 1985 when many of the founding members were in their 6
So was it worth it? Look at the results. When the United States entered the war to protect the freedom of South Korea, that nation was at the economic bottom of the world. The Korean people took the freedom we helped buy with our blood and rose to be one of the top 10 economies in the world. Those people have never forgotten our sacrifice and continue to thank U.S. Korean War veterans.
As I walked the streets of Seoul and Chipyong Ni in 2010 wearing a Korean War veteran’s cap, I found it immensely humbling to have old men and women walk up and put their arms around me, crying and saying, “Thank you for saving my life,” or “Thank you for saving my country.” Was our battle for their freedom worth the sacrifice? Korean War veterans believe it was.
Only those who have lost freedom know its true value. All those who have served in the uniform of our country know freedom is not free. President Bush also said, “No American will ever forget the test of freedom our brave sons and daughters faced as they sought to stop aggression. You see, it is right that America remember that struggle in the Pusan perimeter to the landing at Inchon to the recapture and brave defense of Seoul. It is never too late for America to express her gratitude to all those who served under our flag in Korea — those who made it home and those who didn’t.” I wonder.
On June 25, does anyone in the nation remember the sacrifice Korean War veterans made in service of their country?
Richard L. Halferty, a retired captain in the U.S. Naval Reserve, is the chairman of the Texas Lone Star Chapter of Korean War Veterans, Inc.