In our opinion
Monday, Nov. 11 is Veterans Day, a time to honor those who serve or have served, living or dead. It’s a time of memorializing and acknowledging with gratitude the sacrifices our men and women in uniform make for this country.
Most of us on the editorial board have direct connections to people who have served. Several have family members who fought in World War II as well as friends or family who served in Vietnam.
Both of these past conflicts have found their way to prominent roles in our collective cultural conscience. Both have memorials in Washington, D.C., honoring those who participated. Honor Flights transport World War II survivors to the nation’s capital so those fast-disappearing veterans can view their memorial while a traveling version of the Vietnam Remembrance Wall brings that Southeast Asia conflict closer to home.
In fact both conflicts have received so much attention the general public may be as familiar with them as they are with our current and most recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s served to consign one other important conflict to history’s dusty backroom shelves – the Korean War.
Sandwiched between World War II – a war with well-defined enemies, reasons to fight and established battle lines – and Vietnam’s confusion and controversy, the war fought on the Korean Peninsula between June 25, 1950 and July 27, 1953 was equally as bloody and violent as either conflict. Casualty reports vary from side to side, but recent scholarship has put the total battle dead at 1.2 million, 33,686 who were American soldiers.
The war was essentially the first shots in a larger conflict, the Cold War, with U.S. and some United Nations forces backing South Korea while China and the former Soviet Union supported the North. And yet, little is said about Korea, a war that is technically not over and which every so often the ramifications from it rear their heads in international news.
Besides memorials and testimonials, countless books, documentary films, feature movies and TV shows have created awareness about World War II and Vietnam. Yet, if asked what they know about the Korean War, many will likely cite the 1970s TV show “M*A*S*H” as an example, with a few movie buffs tossing in the 1954 William Holden/Grace Kelly classic “The Bridges at Toko Ri.”
We know a lot about Pearl Harbor, Midway, Normandy, Battle of the Bulge, the Tet Offensive, Hamburger Hill and the Hanoi Hilton. We have little memory of Pusan, Inchon (except for a brief mention in the movie “MacArthur”), Chosin Reservoir, the Gauntlet, Pork Chop Hill or that at one point the U.S. was considering using nuclear weapons on the battlefield.
All of us have been touched by military conflict. Indeed, our world and times have been shaped by war, an unfortunate statement if ever there was one.
We call upon our military personnel to make the ultimate sacrifice, often in the guise of protecting our freedoms but just as likely to clean up our messes, messes created by inattention to the actions and policies of our leaders. In remembering the sacrifices of service personnel, it’s important we remember all of them, not just those most visible in our public eyesight.
Thank you veterans – of all conflicts.