As Memorial Day comes to a close, there has been a lot of talk about whether we, as Americans, have forgotten the significance of this holiday. Many regard Memorial Day as pretty much the start of summer (though that doesn’t officially begin until June 20), where families head down to the beach for the long weekend. Others are heading to outlet stores to take advantage of the various shopping deals occurring over the weekend. We are able to do these activities because hundreds of thousands before us decided to give their lives in various wars to preserve our freedoms.
We should honor those who served and died for our country, and thank God (or whatever higher power that may exist) that this country is filled with scores of men who were willing to make that sacrifice. From the Revolutionary War to Operation Iraqi Freedom, we stand and take pause and the brave men and women who died performing extraordinary acts to defend this country and their fellow comrades in arms. Yet, I always have a special place for those who never came back from the Korean War.
Yes, we did fight in Korea starting in June of 1950-1953, though the first contingent of American troops committed at first were ill-prepared and poorly equipped. It wasn't until the landing in Inchon in September of 1950 that UN/US/ROK forces began to drive the North Koreans across the border. It was also the first time the United Nations went to war. Why do I hold those who died in Korea in high regard? For starters, I, and millions of other Korean-American adoptees, wouldn’t be here without their service and sacrifice. Without American intervention, it’s certain that the last of the South Korean forces would’ve been overrun near the Pusan Perimeter. It was the last sliver of land left for the communist North Korean forces to conquer and unite the peninsula under a reign of unbearable human suffering and tyranny, much like what we see today above the 38th parallel.
Millions of Koreans and Korean adoptees would’ve been shut off from the world, unable to live better lives in the homes of caring Americans. I’m one of them. If American soldiers decided not to get involved in Korea, I would not have been flown into Newark Airport on December 8, 1988 and adopted by my new family. I would not have been able to live the American Dream. Period. My life could have been marked by starvation, economic destitution, and the irrational paranoia that the Great Leader can read my thoughts. For native South Koreans, the Miracle on the Han River that helped catapult the nation into the G20, making them economic heavyweights in league with Europe and the United States, would have never happened.
Most importantly, the Korean War if often relegated as a forgotten one. No war in which American blood has been should ever be considered forgotten. Over 30,000 Americans fought to keep a people they really didn’t know free from communist oppression. I’m forever grateful for those who sacrificed their lives. I’m indebted forever to those who served in that war. And every Korean should feel the same.
So, while we honor those who have died to keep this nation free, and other countries free as well, let’s not forget the wars that might not have been covered so thoroughly in the classroom. After all, every American who has died in the service of his or her country is a hero. We must not forget a single one every year we mark this occasion.
To those who have died throughout the years in the defense of our republic, especially those who never came back from Korea—thank you.
BONUS: Historian Victor Davis Hanson analysis of the Korean War, where he says it "deserves to be remembered and studied with pride."
Editor's Note: Got some dates and facts mixed up ... thanks for pointing this out Everitt Simpson--and thank you for your service in Korea. I wouldn't be writing this post if it weren't you, sir.