PORT ANGELES — Although they fought in what some historians describe as the “Forgotten War,” veterans of the Korean War living on the North Olympic Peninsula are far from forgotten.
That was the message NaHye Kwon, a researcher with the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Seattle, delivered Friday afternoon while presenting a plaque to about 15 members of the Korean War Veterans Association Chapter 310 during a luncheon at Kokopelli Grill in Port Angeles.
“There is a phrase in my consulate general,” Kwon said during the luncheon.
“It is a forgotten victory.”
Kwon gave the plaque, engraved with words “In Honor and Memory of Korean War Veterans,” to Gerald Rettela, Korean War Veterans Association Chapter 310 founder and president.
“This is part of our efforts to show appreciation, and that the Korean War is not a forgotten war. It is a victory remembered and shared by all [South] Koreans,” Kwon said.
“As a diplomatic office, we represent our government and our peoples’ appreciation for the service and dedication they have made for our country.”
The veterans in attendance at the luncheon, most all older than 80, truly appreciated the gesture, Rettela said.
When “the war started 66 years ago, all of us were 17, 18 years old,” he said.
Now-a-days, “it is amazing that we were able to get this many out,” he joked.
Kwon attended the luncheon in the stead of Korean Consul General Moon Duk-ho, who was detained in Seattle on emergency business in reaction to the suspected detonation of a nuclear bomb Friday in North Korea, Kwon said.
The Korean Peninsula remains technically at war, as the 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice. The United States stations more than 28,000 troops in South Korea as a buttress against possible North Korean aggression. Tens of thousands more are in nearby Japan.
A South Korean Defense Ministry official, who refused to be named because of office rules, told The Associated Press that Seoul detected an estimated explosive yield of 10 kilotons and assessed that it was from a nuclear test.
In comparison, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 6, 1945, was a 15-kiloton bomb, according to historians.
North Korea’s nuclear tests are part of a push for a nuclear-armed missile that could one day reach the U.S. mainland, according to AP.
This latest development is a reminder to Rettela of the continuing importance of American/Korean relations more than 60 years following the signing of the armistice, he said.
“Absolutely,” he said.
“Just by [Kwon] being here and making that presentation is showing heartfelt appreciation as to how much they care for us and appreciate our efforts.”
Rettela also recognized the South Koreans who fought in the war to maintain their country’s independence from communist North Korea.
“The South Korean soldiers made a special effort to defend their country as well,” Rettela said.
“A lot of them were attached to our units to learn and to fight next to. The KATUSA [Korean Augmentation To the United States] were assigned to my squad. They fought with us [for] unification. Its solidarity … was just phenomenal.”
Kwon said her father was born in 1950, just as hostilities were breaking out.
“He grew up in extreme poverty and deprivation, and had a very difficult childhood,” she said.
“Back then, everybody was suffering. The war impacted pretty much the whole country.”
For more about the Korean War Veterans Association Chapter 310, visit www.kwvwa.com.
Features Editor Chris McDaniel can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56650, or at [email protected].