Veteran Recalls "Forgotten" Korean War
COLUMBIA - Veterans are recalling their "forgotten war," 60 years after an armistice signaled a ceremonial end to the conflict in Korea.
Army veteran Bob Wade said he and others returned home to a welcome they were not expecting.
"There was no attention, no attention made at all," he said. "Things went on like they wanted to go on."
"Some of the boys started coming home, especially the wounded ones, there wasn't much publicity about it," said
Wade, who is a member of VFW post 280 in Columbia.
"There was publicity about the battles and the movements," he said. "But as far as what we were doing there, I don't think that the American people got an idea of what there really was."
Wade said he even experienced animosity from other veterans.
"It was a police action, in fact the VFW didn't want to let us guys in because it wasn't a war like they fought," he said.
A veteran's advocacy group is currently looking for Korean War veterans to honor at an upcoming banquet, August 30.
"It's very necessary to recognize these men for their actions," said Exercise Tiger Association national director, Susan Haines.
"The honors banquet is going to be recognizing the Korean War veterans as well as outstanding military men and women from all branches," Haines said.
Exercise Tiger is recognized by the Department of Defense and advocates and conducts annual ceremonies in honor of veterans.
"It's good to reestablish the spirit of patriotism across the country," Haines said. "They were of a generation where they very much displayed their patriotic nature and support of their country."
"It's a special honor to recognize these veterans who have paid such a dear price for our country's freedom," she said. "Come join us, because we would like to thank you in person, for your years of service, and for your part in keeping this country free."
As the years go by, the number of veterans continue to decline.
"We're up to 50 funerals so far this year," said Don Briggs, VFW Post 280 commander.
Briggs served in Vietnam and said sentiments toward Korean War veterans have changed.
"Veterans are veterans," Briggs said. "Doesn't make no difference what branch, where they were at. Because a lot of people don't realize that it takes seven guys in the rear to put one guy in the field," he said.
Wade said he does not hold any grudges for how he was treated.
"I'm not much for accolades, there are various memorials, I think that's enough."
He volunteered for the draft and served from 1954 to 1956. Wade was sent to Korea on a secretive mission nearly a year after the armistice.
"I was in a platoon that did a lot of moving around in the Far East," he said.
Wade's superiors told him his stint would last two weeks. That turned into two months. His platoon was divided into groups of four, spread out across the demilitarized zone, also known as DMZ.
"The North Koreans were sniping our troops in the early evening and at night, whenever they could find them, and we were told to clean them out," he said.
"It was cold, and never got warm, and we did our job," Wade said.
After Korean, Wade flew to Japan and eventually to Southeast Asia.
The armistice was only a cease-fire agreement. A treaty was never signed.
Missouri is among the states that suffered the highest combat deaths in Korea. Missouri suffered 944 deaths, sccording to the U.S. Department of Defense and the Defense Casualty Analysis System.
In total, the U.S. suffered 36,574 combat deaths.
Anyone interested in learning about the honors banquet can contact Susan Haines at ExerciseTiger.org.