- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 26, 2016

Larry C. Kinard doesn’t consider himself a traveler, having spent the majority of his 87 years happily in Texas.

“I’m a Texan. I’ve lived here essentially all my life — except for the time I was in Korea,” Mr. Kinard said in a telephone interview from his home in Mansfield.

His time in Korea — during the 1950s conflict on the peninsula — is bringing him to Washington, where he will lead a band of his Korean War brothers in a parade Monday. Beginning at 2 p.m., about 35 members of the Korean War Veterans Association will march down Constitution Avenue as part of the National Memorial Day Parade.

Marching with the mostly octogenarian veterans will be 35 South Korean fashion models wearing the traditional attire of their homeland in a display of gratitude for the veterans’ service to their country.

“These young ladies call the Korean War veterans their ‘grandpas.’ It is a term of respect in South Korea. For them, every Korean War veteran is their grandfather,” said Jim Fisher, executive director of the veterans association.

South Korea regularly sponsors events and programs to celebrate U.S. veterans of the “forgotten war.” The Return to Korea program gives veterans the opportunity and the means to visit South Korea and attend banquets in recognition of their service — all expenses paid.

Mr. Fisher said Koreans treat American veterans “like gold over there.”

It is far better treatment than what the veterans received after the Korean War. Beginning just five years after World War II, the 1950-1953 conflict wasn’t even referred to as a “war” for many years. It was called a “police action” and ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. Technically, North and South Korea are still at war.

There were no ticker tape parades, no welcome-home celebrations, no commemorations for the returning troops. Because of the “police action” designation, Korean War veterans initially were denied membership in the Veterans of Foreign Wars association.

“People didn’t know much about what was going on [in Korea]. They didn’t like what we were doing across the world. We weren’t welcomed home like WWII heroes had [been],” Mr. Kinard said.

“They were bitter when they came home,” Mr. Fisher said, adding that some veterans founded their own organizations for support.

Mr. Fisher said many men re-entered civilian life without considering their status as veterans — men like Mr. Kinard, who returned to Texas after 24 months of active-duty service in Korea. He did little to question his veteran status until his retirement in 1992.

Mr. Kinard, president of the Korean War Veterans Association since 2104, said he was surprised by the lack of public knowledge about the Korean conflict, a life-changing event that often goes untaught in the classroom.

Under the association’s Tell America program, veterans like Mr. Kinard volunteer their time to teach students about the events they have experienced.

“History teachers feel very pressed for time because they have too much to cover during the semester. This is one reason our program helps them so much,” the program’s chairman, Dwight Henderson, said in Tell America’s mission statement.

Tell America reaches hundreds of students each year, but education is not enough to keep the legacy of Korean War veterans alive: An estimated 150 veterans of the Korean War die each day, and about 2.3 million are living.

Mr. Kinard said Monday’s parade offers his group another opportunity to unite veterans and educate the public.

“We want to help our country learn what the Korean War was about. It is not a forgotten war, but a forgotten victory. What we did in Korea was a great thing,” he said.

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