Santa Paula Times

The South Korean Consul General Yeon-sung Shin (photo above left) speaks to the large crowd that attended the 60th Anniversary of the end of the Korean War. Listening to the Counsel General is Rey Frutos (standing at parade rest) and Ben Espinoza (next to the Counsel General). (Above right) Shoulder-to-shoulder: Korean Veterans Association USA members and the organization’s president Col. (Ret.) Myong Chul Seo (in uniform), KWVA-VC #56 Commander David Lopez (to the colonel’s left), Korean Consul General Yeon-sung Shin (left of Lopez) and members of the Korean War Veterans Association-Ventura County #56 pose at the Korean War Veterans Monument at Veterans Memorial Park Saturday, the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War.

Observance of 60th anniversary of Korean War’s end draws hundreds

August 02, 2013
Santa Paula News

It was good for those who fought side-by-side to reunite, including those who had served in the Republic of Korea military forces who attended the ceremony observing the 60th anniversary of the war that tore their country apart.

Although Korea remains split, there also remains a strong bond between the Americas who served and their Korean counterparts. And, according to Korean Consul General Yeon-sung Shin, there is an everlasting gratitude still felt by Koreans toward the Americans and other nations that fought alongside them in what was once known as The Forgotten War.

On Saturday about 200 veterans and their supporters attended the commemorative ceremony held at Santa Paula’s Veterans Memorial Park. The event is staged annually by the Korean War Veterans Association-Ventura County Chapter #56.

Said Mercer-Prieto VFW Post #2043 Commander Jerry Olivas, “I’m lending a hand to David” Lopez, commander of the KWVA-VC.

Veterans of other wars also attended including Bill Florio, the former commander of the local VFW who now resides at the California Veterans Home in Saticoy. Lopez noted attendance has picked up at the event every year, “But this is a special anniversary,” marking the sixth decade since the Korean War ended. 

Also in attendance was a large contingent of Korean veterans now living in Southern California, members of the Korean Veterans Association USA and the organization’s president, Col. (Ret.) Myong Chul Seo.

Rodney Cobos of Santa Paula attends all Santa Paula veterans events: “I always remember my dad,” the late Bill Cobos, “and the story he told about my grandpa having to identify the body of my dad’s Uncle Tony Soto when it came back from Korea,” said Rodney. After his uncle’s death, noted Rodney, his father signed up and served in Korea.

Lopez welcomed the crowd and told them they were gathering to honor the end of the fighting when a treaty was signed exactly 60 years earlier. “Each year we honor those who served and died in Korea as well as those that were lucky to come back,” but are now deceased. 

The National Anthems of the U.S. and South Korea were played, as well as versions of “Taps,” with Koreans in their native language thanking the American veterans for their support, and with the U.S. veterans and the Korean veterans saluting each version.

The Rev. David E. Pressey led the Morning Prayer, noting, “I wasn’t a chaplain in Korea... my chaplain was killed - I was a machine gunner.” Pressey added, “I have great admiration for Commander Lopez and this group for remembering us... they’re one of the most patriotic groups I know.”

Featured speaker Consol General Shin pointed out that a banner on the Veterans Memorial was made by Korean school children thanking veterans for their service, part of a remembrance program. “It’s a pleasure to stand before such a wonderful group of people,” including those “freedom fighters of the world who all have a story to tell on how they helped save my country from Communists... we’re forever indebted to you.”

Shin said his own father, being a veteran of the Korean War who spoke of the support of Americans and other nations, was a strong influence on his decision to become a diplomat. In all, 21 nations supported South Korea and 16 nations sent troops in the United Nations’ spearheaded display of solidarity.

“I hope one day we will celebrate the end of division in Korea,” and in the interim the Republic of Korea “stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States in conflicts,” sending troops to various military engagements including Afghanistan. “From the bottom of my heart I thank the veterans, their families and friends, and express the deepest gratitude on behalf of the Korean people.”

It was a return visit to the memorial for Korean War veteran Commander Hong Ki Park, who told the crowd, “I cannot say enough to thank you.... Although past surveys showed that 60 percent of Americans” were not familiar with the Korean War, over the past two decades awareness has been raised through efforts of the Republic of Korea and veterans themselves.

“It’s made the change from the Forgotten War to the Unforgettable War and we will not forget the support we got from the United States.” Park said a Peace Pack exhibit at the DMZ separating North and South Korea promotes future unity and celebrates the friendship among countries while waiting for the day that Korea is again united.

Commander Olivas read the names of those Santa Paulans listed on the monument who were killed during the Korean War, followed by the names of all of those from Ventura County who made the ultimate sacrifice. The names of Santa Paulans were more than half the county total lost in the war.

The veteran groups, dignitaries, family members and supporters at the Korean War Veterans Memorial laid dozens of wreaths honoring those who lost their lives in Korea and those war veterans who are now deceased. After more remarks there was a 21-Gun Salute demonstrating that those who fought and died in the Forgotten War will always be remembered.

The Korean War resulted in 33,686 American battle deaths, 2,830 non-battle deaths and 8,176 missing in action. More than 1.2 million on both sides of the battlefield were killed in just three years, from June 1950 to July 27, 1953 when the war ended. More than 103,000 Americans were injured in the war that is believed to have killed more than one million civilians.