On Friday, June 27, 2012, AMVETS attended the commemoration of the 59th anniversary of the Korean War armistice. The ceremony took place at the amphitheater in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Admiral James Winnefeld, the Honorable Park, Sung Choon, Minister of Patriots and Veterans Affairs of Republic of Korea, and James Ferris, President of the Korean War Veterans Association, presented a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on behalf of the more than 50,000 U.S. service members who died during the Korean War.
Panetta was the keynote speaker at the event that served as a reminder of the events that occurred throughout the Korean War during 1950-1953. The first test of the United Nations, 16 nations provided combat troops to fight in the Korean War and five countries provided medical units. Often known as the “Forgotten War,” the Korean War is nestled between the greatest generation of World War II and the controversial Vietnam War. While many neglect the events of the Korean War, the veterans of Korea do not forget the battles of Pork Chop Hill, Bloody Ridge, Chosin Reservoir and Massacre Valle.
“Those fights became synonymous in our lexicon with the heroic sacrifice and the grim determination of the American fighting man,” remarked Panetta. “Thanks to the service and sacrifice of our veterans six decades ago…South Korea is a trusted ally, an economic power, a democracy and a provider of security in the Asia-Pacific region, and in other parts of the world.”
Many Korean War veterans and active duty service members from all branches attended the ceremony. “It is important to recognize the sacrifices of all veterans,” said AMVETS National Commander Gary L. Fry. “Today, we remember the overlooked strength and bravery of our Korean War veterans.” Several active duty service members were dressed in full combat gear reminiscent of the clothing worn by soldiers, Marines, and airmen during the Korean War, prompting many veterans to share their stories and memories.
During the ceremony, a moment of silence occurred to remember the 7,900 personnel who are still missing in action from the Korean War. Panetta reaffirmed the Department of Defense’s commitment to retrieving these personnel, and explained how Korean War veterans have influenced the current generation of service members.
“Some 60 years ago, a generation of Americans stepped forward to defend those in need of protection and to safeguard this great county,” Panetta ended his speech. “American is indebted to them—to you, for your service and your sacrifice…America will never forget you.”
(Photos: Top: Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta addresses a crowd of Korean War veterans. Seated behind him, left to right: Ambassador Choi, Young-Jin, Republic of Korea; Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki; Honorable Park, Sung Choon, Minister of Patriots and Veterans Affairs, Republic of Korea; and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Admiral James Winnefeld. Middle: An active duty Marine greets veterans as they leave the ceremony. Bottom: Veterans during the ceremony. Photos by Brittany Barry)