- The Washington Times - Monday, June 26, 2000

Dignitaries in grayish-black suits laid down wreaths of peace yesterday and listened with solemn faces to the staff-written tributes of luminaries and politicians, including President Clinton.
As usual, though, it took the gruff-spoken, GI veterans of the Korean War that began 50 years ago yesterday, to bring the anniversary celebration down to earth.
Standing under a tree in Arlington National Cemetery along with some of his old Army buddies, Carl Bishop read between the lines of a commemoration speech by Democratic presidential candidate Vice President Al Gore and saw it as a sign of better things to come for veterans like himself, now in their 70s and 80s.
"… I think we are now going to see better conditions for the veterans, better hospitals," said Mr. Bishop, who was held in Korea as a prisoner for three years during the war.
After the ceremony at Arlington, the scene shifted to the Korean War Memorial on the Mall, where representatives from the 21 nations whose troops fought in the war laid wreaths along the memorial.
Standing at the Korean War Memorial, Don Carlson gave a grimmer view of the future.
"The quality of the military has gone down under the Clinton government," he said. "We are not spending enough money on it. We are inviting disaster again."
Yesterday's ceremonies marked the day the Korean War began 50 years ago. It is estimated that during the United States' three-year involvement in the war, nearly 37,000 U.S. soldiers lost their lives. Another 8,000 remain unaccounted for to this day.
"I am amazed I am still here today … . I never thought I'd live this long," said William Hoock from Buffalo, N.Y., who came with his wife, Flo.
More events commemorating the Korean War will be held around the country until Nov. 11, when the commemoration officially ends.
In Arlington, Mr. Gore said, "America has a commitment to salute and honor our soldiers. We must honor and provide for every hero."
The vice president told the veterans,
many of who came with their spouses, that their sacrifice was "vindicated by the growth of Korea into a thriving democracy … by the victory of democracy over communism."
He singled out for appreciation the sacrifice of one particular veteran, Vince Krepps, who fought in Korea in 1950. Mr. Krepps, who shared the stage with the vice president yesterday, lost his twin brother, Richard, in the war.
Koreans who attended the ceremony in Arlington said they were very grateful for the help they had received from the United States.
Dressed in his country's military uniform, S.H. Choi from the Ministry of Veteran Affairs in South Korea, described the ceremony at Arlington as "impeccable."
"We love our freedom. We work for the military because freedom is very important to us," said Lt. Col. Choi, who attended the ceremony with five other delegates of the ministry.
When the day's events shifted to the Korean War Memorial on the Mall, veterans were impressed by the 19 steel statues of men in combat, rifles and radios in hand, that make up the Korean War Memorial.
Connie Stevens, who sang for U.S. troops in Korea in 1953, sang "God Bless America" at the ceremony.
In his speech, President Clinton announced the remains of two soldiers missing in action in Korea had been identified and were being returned to their families, who were in the audience yesterday.
The remains of Hallie Clark Jr., of Hannibal, Mo., and James Higgins, of Bellam, Ky., were among the 42 sets of remains recovered from North Korea since the communist regime there began allowing searches by the U.S. military in 1996.
The Korean War was "a hard, brutal war, and the men and women who fought it were heroes," Mr. Clinton told the more than 7,000 people gathered on the Mall.
Looking back, he said, the stand taken by the United States on Korea had been "indispensable."
Mr. Clinton thanked U.S. allies in the war, and, quoting President Harry Truman, said that had the allies not shown support, "we could have faced World War III."
He said that although Korea was known as the "forgotten war," "We must never forget that for some, Korea is still alive every single day."
Mr. Bishop is definitely one of those.
He still remembers his friends killed in the war.
Many of them, he said, had families when they lost their lives. He himself had not been married at the time, he said, "and I often wished it was me who had died instead, because my life then was not as valuable as theirs."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide