By Hailey Persinger
Killeen Daily Herald
As a 17-year-old, Don Swift saw things in Korea that he prefers to omit from everyday conversation.
That doesn't mean he wants to forget them.
The Korean War Veterans Association of Central Texas filled an entire civic center ballroom Saturday with veterans, their families and memories of the three-year-long conflict that occurred 60 years ago.
"They call us the forgotten war," said Swift, who served in the Marine Corps before joining the Army in Korea in 1950 for the first two years of the conflict. "We will be remembered one way or another."
Like many of the veterans who attended Saturday's banquet, Swift began his military career as a teenager. As a Marine Corps reservist, Swift had cemented bonds with his fellow marines. After his time in the reserves, he joined the Army, began his time in Korea and gradually, those bonds dissipated.
Swift said he didn't see many of his friends after his feet hit the Korean soil. But what he did see left an indelible mark on his memory and his heart. It's one he won't talk about but one he knows his fellow veterans know well.
"We're all getting old and fading away," he said. "Like (General) MacArthur said, 'we don't die. We just fade away.'"
But if the Fort Hood community has its way, the memory of the Korean War, its 37,000 U.S. casualties and veterans like Swift and Mike Giccatti will not.
Giccatti, now 85 years old, was first drafted in 1944 and served in World War II. Nearly 10 years later, he found himself at Panmunjom, the site of two-year-long armistice negotiations.
"The conditions were horrible," he said of the Korea he observed upon arriving in the country the same Korea that is now one of the most prosperous eastern countries. "We were more than happy to do what we could."
They did all they could then and now do all they can to preserve pride in and memory of their colors, their flag, their country and their war, said Albert Gonzales, a fellow Korean War veteran and the final speaker at Saturday's event.
"The guns in Korea are silent and a semblance of peace prevails over South Korea," he wrote in his night-ending speech. "Those you see here today were the once-young men who spent their youth and sacrificed their long-term health in fighting for that freedom."
Contact Hailey Persinger at email@example.com or (254) 501-7568. Follow her on Twitter at KDHcity.