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Our Opinion: Memorializing the Korea vet

May 28, 2001

When Japanese Emperor Hirohito formally surrendered to the United States aboard the USS Missouri on Sept. 2, 1945, to end World War II, many Americans believed that would be the last time this country would become embroiled in such an epic, bloody and life-altering conflict.

However, in just five short years scores of servicemen would be called back to active duty and young men would be drafted to enter into a civil war between what is now known as North and South Korea.

In this, the 50th year since the start of the Korean War, we want to make certain the brave men and women who served this country during that war are remembered in the same breath as those veterans who fought, and died, during World War I and II and all the wars in which Americans have served before and since.

The Korean War, in many veterans' estimation, is considered a forgotten war, a time of service and heroics by our boys that doesn't get the kind of polished shine and "at-a-boy" sentimentality of WWII. Following World War II, the U.S. was a more united nation than at any time in the country's history. America was the undisputed victor in a war that pitted the good guys against the evil Axis powers and it's almost cartoonishly evil leaders Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Hirohito.

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World War II vets returned to an economically prosperous country rife with opportunities and the ability to make livings not seen in previous generations, and many believed there could never be another war on that scale, and really there hasn't been.

When the Korean War rolled around in the summer of 1950, by which time many servicemen had started careers and families, it's safe to say no one was exactly overjoyed to go back onto the frontlines. That, coupled with an ending to a war in which there was no clear victor, the seeds of uncertainty and division toward U.S. foreign policy were planted, seeds that wouldn't reach full maturity until the Vietnam War more than a decade later.

While no one can say for certain at what lies the root of this country's less-than fervently appreciative view toward the efforts of our Korean War vets, we do believe those attitudes have taken a dramatically positive shift in recent years, with Korean War vets getting their just desserts.

While the Korean War lasted only three years and was fought in a relatively small area, 4 million people perished, 37,000 of those casualties being American servicemen. Until last year, many believed 54,000 Americans had been killed. However, an error in U.S. military statistics took into account the 37,000 combat deaths plus those servicemen who had died in noncombat situations worldwide during 1950-53.

Regardless of the numbers, 37,000 of our fathers, husbands, brothers, sons, grandsons, uncles, nephews, cousins, friends and neighbors were lost forever.

As we load up our trucks for a day of off-roading in the dunes, pack the family vehicle for a trip to the beach in San Diego or cook a couple of burgers on our backyard barbecues, let's remember there's more to today than a break from the daily grind of work or school. This is the day we honor those who served and those who died to ensure our freedoms. And we'd like to send a special thank you to the veterans of the Korean War. You are not forgotten.

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