WASHINGTON (Oct. 6, 2009) -- Veterans of the Korean War, both American and Korean, gathered Monday with current U.S. Army and Republic of Korea leadership to pay tribute at the National Korean War Memorial.

Members of the Korean War Veterans Association chapters from Frederick, Md., and Winchester, Va., took the role of color guard as U.S. Forces Korea Commander Gen. Walter L. Sharp, Republic of Korea Ambassador Lee Tae-sik, Korean Armed Forces Liaison Maj. Gen. Kang Dae-young and members of the Korean branch of the Association of the United States Army laid a wreath in tribute to those who fought the North Korean invasion nearly 60 years ago.

Sharp, the commander of all U.S. military operations in the Republic of Korea, spoke about the significance of the Korean War and the dedication of its veterans before laying wreaths at the top of the memorial.

"We're here today to recognize the great sacrifices of those who so bravely fought during the Korean War," Sharp said. "Throughout the war, Americans, Koreans and U.N. forces suffered terrible hardships and punishing conditions. But the forces of freedom triumphed and saved a nation that now stands as one of the world's great democracies."

The war began when communist North Korean forces invaded the Republic of Korea June 25, 1950. It continued until an armistice was reached July 27, 1953. More than 302,000 Americans served in the war; nearly 55,000 Americans died.

Sharp said the wreath-laying commemorates every person, from American, Korean or U.N. forces, who helped repel communist forces during the three-year struggle.

"As we prepare to recognize the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War in 2010, it is appropriate that we take time to remember those men and women who dedicated so much of themselves to the Republic of Korea so that it could become and remain free," he said. "Those we honor today gave their lives for the highest of human ideals: freedom for all people."

He continued, saying all servicemembers today continue the legacy of Korean War veterans. Currently 28,500 U.S. servicemembers and their families are stationed in Korea.

"My father was one of the soldiers that fought in the Korean War," Sharp said. "And I am proud of those who today follow in his and all the Korean War veterans' footsteps."

Last year, the Republic of Korea celebrated the 60th anniversary of founding of its military, and the Korean-American alliance. Today's ceremony was held in conjunction with the 2009 Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exhibition.

(Ian Graham is assigned to Defense Media Activity's Emerging Media Directorate)

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16