Leaders from Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, gathered at The Summit June 24 to express appreciation to Korean War veterans who call North Alabama home.
The 15th Annual Korean War Veterans Luncheon was hosted by Legacy 4 Korean War Veterans Foundation, a nonprofit organization that strives to serve communities, support veteran organizations and honor Korea and the WWII veterans who are so often forgotten.
Maj. Gen. Todd Royar, U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command commander, was the keynote speaker for the event.
“… The Korean War is often considered the ‘Forgotten War’ and it’s a forgotten war because, at the time – you know better than I – it was not considered a war; it was considered a conflict,” Royar began.
He continued, “And in recent memory, for all those who served, you recognize the fact that those of the World War II generation and those that served in that time, as they are ending their lives … there's been a lot of adulation and recognition and things for what they have done. Equally, those who served in Vietnam … – the war after Korea, recognize the fact that they were not treated well when they came home. But there, fortunately, has been a resurgence – a reawakening – to make sure that they receive the adulation that they deserve.”
The spirit of Royar’s message to the group of Korean War veterans and their families was simple:
“This may have the moniker of the Forgotten War, but we should not forget,” he said. “Second, we will not forget and, finally, you are not forgotten.”
Royar spoke of Cpl. Eldert Beek of Sibley Iowa who was killed during the Korean War but not accounted for until April 14, 2020. Beek was finally laid to rest June 14 in George, Iowa.
“If you take a look at it, today are 7,557 service members that are still unaccounted for from the Korean War ... as of 10 days ago, there was one less.”
He said the ceremonial empty tables that represent prisoners of war and those missing in action at military programs will continue to be set “until every last Soldier is accounted for.”
As Royar wrapped up his remarks, he thanked the veterans for their service and left them with one last ask.
“My request is that you go tell your story,” he said. “We as a nation need to hear your story. We need to hear what you did. And it is a shame for us not to understand that. It is a shame for us not to remember that and to lose that rich history, that heritage that you have provided to us … I am honored to walk in your footsteps.”
In a recorded video message played during the program, U.S. Army Materiel Command Commander Gen. Edward Daly reminded attendees of the counteroffensive that took place 70 years ago this month, when troops pushed the communist forces north across the 38th Parallel in June 1951.
“The war lasted another two years – through the Battles of Bloody Ridge, the Punchbowl, Pork Chop Hill, and many others – but you held your ground on what became, in a very real way, Freedom’s Frontier.
And today, south of that line you took and defended, 52 million Koreans live in freedom and prosperity within a vibrant and democratic society,” Daly said. “That is a remarkable legacy for which you and your families should be immensely proud, and for which your nation is eternally grateful.”
“I often say that this is the land of the free because of the brave – and our Korean War veterans are indeed our brave,” Daly said. “You are the giants on whose shoulders current and future military service members stand.”