Korean War Veterans' Last Mission: Build Memorial To 'Forgotten War'
(Editor's note: This discussion originally aired June 2017. The veterans recently completed their effort and dedicated the memorial to the Korean War in February)
The Korean War began 67 years ago this week and more than 35,000 Americans died in the brutal three-year conflict that has been dubbed America’s forgotten war.
Now Southern Nevada Korean War veterans and members of the Korean community want to make it less forgotten by building a memorial to those who served.
The Southern Nevada chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association is raising funds and getting approvals to build the memorial at the Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City.
Over the weekend, to mark the anniversary the start of the conflict, Korean community leaders saluted dozens of veterans at a ceremony at Spring Valley High School.
Of the war, historian and journalist David Halberstam once wrote: It was simply a puzzling, gray, very distant conflict. A war that went on and on and on, seemingly without hope or resolution, about which most Americans, save the men who fought there and their immediate families, preferred to know as little as possible.
“That’s well put. It pretty well explains it,” said Chuck Johnson commander of the Southern Nevada chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association, and at 83 is one of its youngest members, "That’s where this phrase comes along 'The Forgotten War,'"
While most Americans, even those who were alive when the fighting broke out don't know much about the war, the Korean people have a different experience. Wijo Kang is the chapter's chaplain. He was studying in Busan when the war started. He was drafted shortly after that and fought all three years.
“I don’t understand why it is considered the Forgotten War," he said, "For us the veterans and the Koreans that participated in the war, it’s the highest point of their life and never forgotten.”
It is actually the Korean community in Las Vegas that is helping with the memorial for the war. Only about six months into their effort to get the funds needed for the memorial the community stepped in to help.
“We have to just get on our knees and thank the Korean community because the Korean community has come forth and probably 95 percent of the funds were generated by the Korean community. Because they’re thankful for what they had done for them,” Johnson said.
Kang agrees that most Korean people are grateful that the U.S. stepped into the conflict.
The impact of the war is still felt today. There is no official peace treaty with North Korean. Instead, there is an armistice, which created the Demilitarized Zone along the 38th Parallel.
Wijo Kang (Left), Chaplain of the Korean War Veterans Association, Chuck Johnson (Right), commander of the Southern Nevada chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association/Courtesy: John Diaz
Chuck Johnson, commander of the Southern Nevada chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association; Wijo Kang, chaplain of the Korean War Veterans Association