The Korean War is often called “America’s Forgotten War” because it was overshadowed by World War II and the Vietnam War.
The conflict began at dawn on June 25, 1950. Two days later, Missouri’s own President Harry Truman ordered U.S. air and naval forces to Korea.
The war ended on July 27, 1953. Roughly 33,000 U.S. soldiers lost their lives in the three-year battle, including more than 900 Missourians.
Thursday’s 70th anniversary of the war’s end is anything but forgotten for those who attended a ceremony at the Missouri Capitol.
“After three years of death and devastation, the weapons of war no longer pierced the night air along the front,” said Missouri Veterans Commission Director Paul Kirchoff. “Men and women celebrated quietly, and like countless survivors before them, thought to themselves, ‘Thank God it’s over.’”
Charles Clark, who served in Korea from 1952 to 1954, worked in a communications message center. He watched the peace treaty being signed in 1953 in a Korean village.
“Captain came up and got me up out of bed,” he said. “We ran off the papers for all the soldiers to sign.”
The treaty separated the two Koreas – and put an end to the war fighting.
Clark said he has many good memories from serving during the war.
“I would do it all over again – for my country, I’d do it all over again. I’m as patriotic as can be,” said Clark. “Best country on the land and the planet.”
Richard Youngs, of Cameron, explained what he thought of Thursday’s ceremony.
“Magnificent thing for all the guys to be recognized – made them feel good, and the wives, and all the grandchildren, and any children that came down with them. It made them feel special,” he said.
Youngs said he was about 18 years old when he was in the U.S. Navy and served in the war.
“Since the Korean War, we went into Vietnam War, why you don’t hear much about the Korean War anymore,” he said. “The Vietnam War, which was a war that didn’t have to be, which is same way with the Korean War.”
During the ceremony, Col. John Clark presented “the missing warrior table.”
It included a white tablecloth to symbolize the purity of the warrior’s intentions to respond to America’s call to arms. The single red rose in a vase signified the blood they have shed in sacrifice to ensure the freedom of the United States of America. It is also a reminder of the family and friends of their missing loved ones who keep the faith.
The yellow ribbon on the vase represents the thousands who demand with unyielding determination a proper accounting of the missing warriors. A slice of lemon is a reminder of the soldier’s bitter fate. The salt sprinkled on the plate signifies the countless fallen tears of their families as they wait.
The glass is inverted because they cannot commune with their family and friends. The chair is empty to show they are not here. The candle is reminiscent of the light of hope, to illuminate their way home.
“This table is set for one,” said Clark. “It’s small. It symbolizes the frailty of one prisoner, alone, against their suppressors.”
Clark, of Columbia, was a prisoner of war for roughly six years during the Vietnam War.
Brig. Gen. Charlie Hausman, deputy adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard, said the courage and fortitude that was exemplified by Korean War veterans set the standard of future generations of service members.
“It’s an important day, not only to commemorate the end of hostilities that caused tremendous human suffering, but also to honor and celebrate the service that so many brave men and women gave to the United States. And for some of you, this recognition is long overdue,” said Hausman. “As we remember the 70th anniversary of the Korean armistice, we recognize that we cannot forget that freedom is not free.”
During the ceremony, Korean War veterans received pins to honor them for their service to our nation.
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