WASHINGTON (Army News Service, June 24, 2010) -- The Department of Defense began its commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Korean War in the Pentagon courtyard June 24, honoring veterans in attendance and the more than 37,000 who died in the three-year war.

Under Secretary of the Army Dr. Joseph Westphal, the ceremony's keynote speaker, commended Korean War veterans, saying their efforts ensured the continued alliance with South Korea, "an honored friend."

"The Korean War thwarted the expansion of communism in Asia, introduced the helicopter to the United States armed forces, advanced the battlefield treatment of the wounded, and saw the desegregation of our Army," Westphal said. "From that war, the Republic of Korea has emerged as a vibrant democracy, an economic giant in Asia, and a strong, independent and respected voice among nations."

Han Duk-soo, ambassador of the Republic of Korea, said the freedom won for Korea by American veterans allowed Korea to promote freedom as well.

"Korea is expanding its role to promote peace, stability and prosperity beyond the Korean Peninsula. We are working alongside the United States in such places as Iraq, Afghanistan and the waters of Somalia to further peace and freedom," Duk-soo said. "Through your bravery and sacrifice, you veterans made that possible."

Westphal honored former Sgt. Ronald Rosser, who was awarded the Medal of Honor and the Purple Heart for his heroics in the Korean War, and David Mills, a prisoner of war.

In January 1952, Rosser was a 22-year old Cpl. when his infantry regiment, assaulting fortified enemy hills, was stopped by heavy fire. Rosser, a forward observer, disregarded enemy fire as he killed numerous enemy Soldiers while assaulting bunkers and crossing open terrain several times to obtain more ammunition.

Rosser, who attended the ceremony, expressed sorrow for the lack of recognition his fallen comrades received from the American public.

"I think it's appropriate the American government and the Korean government recognize what we did a long time ago. A lot of Americans are still over there that were with us. You wouldn't believe how many. I think there's still about 8,000 MIA," Rosser said.

New York Congressman Charles Rangel, whose service in the Korean War earned him a Purple Heart and Bronze Star, echoed Rosser's sentiments.

"Those 37,000 people could never be forgotten by us. Every accolade, every honor that we receive, we know that the people of Korea are trying to identify us because they don't know the rest of the people who fought and died for freedom in that country," Rangel said.

Westphal thanked Rosser, Rangel and all veterans of the Korean War for their service.

"Our military has always been defined by their courage and character, and their incredible optimism about our country and its value. You, our Korean War veterans, are examples of that courage and character."

Soldiers stationed in Korea exhibit the same admirable qualities today, Westphal said.

"The 28,500 U.S. servicemen and women who are stationed in the peninsula today under the exceptional leadership of General Walter Sharp, exemplify our continuing commitment to the Republic of Korea," he said.

Veterans, servicemembers and members of the audience attended a reception with refreshments following the ceremony.

The ceremony marked the beginning of a three-year Department of Defense observance of key events of the Korean War that will culminate with the 60th anniversary of the signing of the armistice on July 27, 2013.

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