JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD More than 400 Korean War veterans, their friends and family members attended the 64th annual Korean War commemoration June 21 on the state capital grounds in Olympia.
They showed their appreciation for the sacrifices of the heroes killed and wounded in action during the three-year conflict, which began June 25, 1950, when North Korea invaded the Republic of Korea to the south. It ended with an armistice between North Korea and the United Nations, July 27, 1953. Sixteen nations allied to fight against China and North Korea to keep the peace.
During the ceremony, there was a moment of silence and ceremonial-wreath laying by Col. Paul Bontrager, deputy commander of the 7th Infantry Division, who was representing I Corps, and Washington Korean War veterans president Jaehak Yang.
The Korean community joined Mr. Yang for the memorial, including the Washington-Tacoma Korean-American Association president, James Yang; and Susan Lee, president of the Seattle Chapter of the National Unification Advisory Council, which sponsored the event.
Korean Consul General in Seattle, Duk-ho Moon, Schuyler Hoss, from Gov. Jay Inslees office, and Bontrager, representing Lt. Gen. Stephen R. Lanza, commanding general of I Corps, also attended.
Americas Corps, which has led the Department of Defense in a military refocus on the Asian-Pacific region, supported the event; coordinating with the 56th Army (I Corps) Band and the 17th Field Artillery Brigade, who supplied the honor guard and gun salute.
A large number of Korean-American Soldiers volunteered to help with the ceremony, and many young Korean Americans attended to learn lessons from the Korean War.
Dick Muri, Washington state representative from the 28th Legislative District, proclaimed June 21 Korean War Commemoration Day.
He expressed gratitude to all Korean War veterans; particularly our Korean friends representing our long time ally. You are the reason we are here today and we are grateful for your service, he said.
Muri spoke of a special relationship between the two countries that was forged during the conflict.
For more than 60 years, our alliance with the Republic of Korea has been critical to maintaining peace and stability in the Pacific, Muri said. Soldiers from both countries remain steadfast in their commitment to the mission. The heritage of respect and alliance has its foundation in the Korean War.
The alliance continues to prosper and will continue to strengthen in the future, he said.
Attendees sat down to a Korean-style lunch, provided by Korean Associate, after the event.
The Korean War veterans said that they are proud that the Republic of Korea has grown to be the nation with the 15th- largest GDP in the world after the devastation of the Korean War.
After the commemoration in Olympia, youths and veterans visited I Corps and heard presentations about the histories of the Republic of Korea, its army, the U.S. Army and I Corps.
They toured the Lewis Army museum to see some tangible remnants of that important period in history.