Tourists visiting the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington often gaze at the 19 lifelike statues and the images of service members etched on the wall. On July 27, the veterans depicted throughout the memorial were on hand to commemorate the armistice that ended their war.
The ceremony honored National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day, which recognizes July 27, 1953, as the day major hostilities ended between North Korea and China and the United Nations force representing 22 countries, including the United States and South Korea.
More than 1.5 million American service members were deployed to the Korean peninsula between 1950 and 1953. In 2007, less than 225,000 Korean War veterans were alive to talk about their experiences, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“Most people of my generation and younger don’t have an appreciation for the Korean War,” said David Fox, the master of ceremonies and a senior officer in the District of Columbia Defense Force. “Even at the time it was referred to as a police action.”
Events like this help people remember that there was a war, and that people considered it important, said G. Richard Reed, a Marine who served with 1st Marine Division in Korea from 1950 to 1951.
“It would be a great tragedy to lose sight of those who fight and defend the rights we cherish,” Fox added.
The South Korean ambassador to the U.S., Han Duk-soo, took time during the ceremony to thank the American veterans who left their homes to fight for his country.
“It is humbling to me to be standing in front of so many Americans who fought for the country I represent,” Han said. “Thank you for giving the Korean people a chance to rebuild from the wreckage of war.
American and South Korean veterans in attendance had an opportunity to mingle with curious tourists around the memorial and tell war stories. Reed said it was heartening to see more people interested in the war he sometimes refers to as the “forgotten war.”
“We started this because we were a bunch of old guys who wanted to be remembered,” he said. “Now we don’t feel like we have to prove ourselves.”