Last week, on July 27, many around the nation took time to remember the end of the conflict that we know today as the Korean War. July 27, 2013, is not just any anniversary of the end of the war, though, it marks the sixth decade that has passed since those who fought in and survived the war were able to start coming home. For those who served in that war, and for their families, the memorials and celebrations around the country this last week mean a great deal.
It also means a great deal to many of us who did not serve in the Korean War because it gave us an opportunity to show our appreciation for those who did. Throughout the last week I took several opportunities to do exactly that. My first observance of the anniversary was a personal one. On Thursday, I traveled out to the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery to see the grounds, to do some work, to participate in our monthly “unaccompanied veteran” memorial services, and to present the July Veteran of the Month award.
While I was there, I took the opportunity to visit the Korean War Memorial put in place by the Reno Chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association. This memorial has always stuck with me, in part because of the wonderful job they did putting it together, but also because it was the first memorial I saw unveiled on our grounds when I started at the Nevada Office of Veterans Services. It is a beautiful monument, and one that provides a powerful opportunity to recall the sacrifices and services of so many Nevadans who have come before.
On Friday, I joined several dozen Korean War veterans at the VA hospital in Reno to share in their special day. Senator Heller and the hospital director, Dr. Kurt Schlegelmilch, gave moving remarks on the meaning of the day to them personally and to their careers in service to Nevada’s veterans. I was proud to offer remarks as well, but I was especially grateful for the opportunity to simply say thank you to the veterans and their families in attendance. It is not every day that I get to do so, and for the Korean War veterans in the room, there have been too many days when their service has not been appreciated.
This is in part due to the lack of attention from the American public to this war, though this cannot be considered to be the fault of the American people. The war began in 1950, soon after World War II had ended, and President Truman opted to call it a “police action” and use forces from the United Nations instead of declaring another war and mobilizing the nation again. Because of this and other reasons, a war that lasted over three years, often in treacherous and freezing conditions, and eventually claimed nearly 34,000 American lives, has been called “the Forgotten War” for decades.
As a result of this, in 2010 the Department of Defense initiated a three-year campaign to better help the nation understand the meaning of the Korean War in American history. As a part of their mission, they aim to honor those who served, to commemorate the war’s significance as the first “‘hot’ conflict of the Cold War,” and to educate the American people about the events of the war, how it was fought, and what it means to us as a nation today. It is such an important event that President Obama keynoted the national event in front of the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C., to help others honor, commemorate, and learn about this war.
Back in Nevada this last week, it seemed to me that many others were proud and honored to share in these commemorations as well. It seemed to me that they were eager to show that they appreciate and understand the value of the sacrifices made by the Korean War veterans and their families, and they wanted to take the opportunity to share that appreciation as well. I know that I was proud to be a part of some of these efforts, and will continue to look for more opportunities to do so in the future.
Caleb S. Cage is the executive director of the Nevada Office of Veterans Services, appointed by Governor Brian Sandoval. You can read his blog at http://veterans.nv.gov/blog.