Often called the forgotten war, the Korean War was fought from June 25, 1950, to July 27, 1953.
The Korean War Veterans Association had its annual “Remembering Our Veterans” banquet on Saturday evening at Club Hood. Almost 300 people attended the banquet, including local city leaders, Korean War veterans from the U.S. Army and South Korea.
The banquet wrapped up the state convention for the Department of Texas Korean War and Service Veterans Association. The Don C. Faith (MOH) Chapter 222 of Killeen served as the host for the convention.
Retired Lt. Gen. Pete Taylor, former commander of III Corps and Fort Hood, served as the guest speaker.
“For more than 65 years, Koreans and Americans have stood together in the defense of freedom and we continue to stand together today,” Taylor told the audience.
“These people know more about sacrifice and readiness and the American people need to listen to them,” Taylor said.
With no official peace treaty, the fighting in Korea ended with an armistice that went into effect July 27, 1953. Taylor said Fort Hood has one brigade currently serving in South Korea and another brigade scheduled to deploy to the region.
Taylor, a Central Texas resident, retired from the Army in 1993 after serving more than 33 years.
Larry Kinard serves as the National President for the Korean War Veterans Association and as a member of the group since 1997. Kinard earned his commission from Texas A&M in 1950 and deployed to Korea with the 3rd Infantry Division as an artillery officer.
Now 87 years old, Kinard said the organization has grown a lot since he joined 18 years ago and that he will stay with the group as long as possible.
“I believe in what we did in Korea, and I want to make sure that the legacy is remembered,” Kinard said.
Kinard talked about the current troops serving in Korea and about the importance of the peace that they maintain for the people of South Korea.
“The Korean people are very appreciative of what we did for saving their country and the American people need to remember that we still have troops there today as peacekeepers, but they are prepared to do whatever is necessary to maintain the peace,” Kinard said.
Homer Garza is the president of the local chapter, which meets at 10:30 a.m. on the second Saturday of the month at American Legion Post 223, 208 S. Park Street in Killeen. The chapter currently has 86 members and anyone who has served in Korea at any time is eligible.
“We are working to recruit our younger Korean vets into the organization,” Garza said.
J.D. Randolph and Fermin Cantu also attended the banquet as active members of the KWVA. Both veterans spoke of the importance of remembering the sacrifices made in Korea by their comrades.
“The Korean War was an intense conflict, over 5 million civilians and soldiers died there and we should never forget them,” Cantu said.
Cantu also spoke about the importance of recruiting younger service members to join the KWVA to allow them to talk about their issues and make sure that they maintain good coverage with the VA. Randolph currently serves as the KWVA Chapter 270 president, located in North Texas.
Last year, Randolph returned to South Korea and represented the United States at the International Foundation of Korean War Associations, which included veterans from all different countries that served in Korea. Randolph was the only U.S. combat veteran at last year’s event in Korea.
“The South Korean government and people are so appreciative and so thankful for what we did,” Randolph said.
Recruiting the younger generation
Retired 1st Sgt. David C. Hernandez is one of the younger members of the KWVA. Hernandez retired after 28 years of service and lives in Copperas Cove. Taylor was Hernandez’s brigade commander at one time. Hernandez said it is important to make the organization grow with the current soldiers who have served in Korea.
“We need to remember the sacrifices that these veterans made for all of us and the organization needs these younger soldiers to keep the group going so that their sacrifices are not forgotten,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez said he likes the camaraderie that the organization has with the Korean Americans in the Central Texas area.
Special Korean guests
Seung Woo Choi, a retired major general in the South Korean army also spoke to the crowd thanking them for the sacrifice that they and their families made while defending the people of South Korea. Choi said he will come every year to thank them.
“Americans and Koreans forged together in this war as comrades,” Choi said.
Choi was presented a plaque from the city of Killeen and named an honorary citizen of the city.
Sung Wook Jo is the Assistant Korean Counsel General and he spoke to the veterans about the strong alliance between America and South Korea that has stayed strong since 1950.
“Many Americans sacrificed their lives for a people they didn’t know and they had never met and we will never forget what you sacrificed for the people of the Republic of Korea,” Jo told the crowd.
The banquet included a “Missing Man” table and the singing of both the U.S. and Korean national anthems.
The association’s memorial wreath
was placed on the stage and TAPS was played.
Invocations were given in both Korean and English before the meal was served. After dinner, there were performances from Lee’s Korean Traditional Sing and Dance Group, as well as Dallas Folk Singers and Hawaiian Folk Dance and Music.
According to the KWVA website, more than 33,000 American service members gave their lives in the Korean War, about 400 known prisoners of war never returned, and 8,200 military personnel are still listed as missing in action.
For more information on the Korean War Veterans Association, go to www.kwva.org.