By Sarah Rafique

Killeen Daily Herald

A medal with the words "freedom is not free" etched on the back hung around retired Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Soto's neck.

Soto, who served 22 years in the Army, was one of many veterans honored Saturday at a banquet hosted by the Korean War Veterans Association at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center.

During the banquet, Killeen Mayor Dan Corbin proclaimed the day, "Remember Our Korean War Veterans Day," as a way to honor those veterans and educate future generations about their service.

Retired Sgt. 1st Class Albert Gonzales, chair of the Korean War veterans banquet, said it is important to for the community to recognize those who served in the forgotten war, especially since, unlike veterans in other wars, they didn't receive recognition when they returned.

"We just got back and put the rifles back on the rack and went back to work and nobody recognized us," he said.

As an active-duty service member, Sgt. Eric Johnson, 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, said it is important to remember the forgotten soldiers and show respect for the sacrifices they made.

"It shows a camaraderie and a brotherhood that we have with our fellow service members both past and present," said Johnson, whose great uncle served in the Korean War. "It also shows that the newer generations are remembering us."

During the war, Soto deployed for the first time, leaving behind his pregnant wife, Evelyn, and two kids.

Evelyn Soto said if it hadn't been for the support of their parents, they would have had a rough time.

"It wasn't like today where you turn on the TV and you see what's going on," she said. "You didn't get mail as often as you liked and the Army didn't pay much."

Evelyn Soto is proud of her husband's service and said it's time for the U.S. to wake up and remind children about how good their lives are because of veterans' sacrifices.

"If it wasn't for World War II veterans, none of us would be here," Raymond Soto said. "All we did during Korea and Vietnam and now in Iraq and Afghanistan is try to keep fighting (for freedom)."

Gonzales said he's trying to keep the tradition of recognizing veterans alive.

"We're not going to let them forget us," he said.

Contact Sarah Rafique at for (254) 501-7549.

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