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Governor Beebe's weekly column and radio address: Remembering "The Forgotten War"

This July 27th marked 60 years since the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement, essentially ending the Korean War. It is sometimes referred to as “The Forgotten War,” as it was often overshadowed by the more immediate memories of Vietnam, Desert Storm and the 50th anniversary commemorations of World War II. With four-million casualties, however, those who served in Korea certainly have not forgotten their shared experiences on the battlefield.

When Korean veterans returned home, they were not welcomed with the fanfare and acclaim bestowed upon WWII veterans. More often than not, they were treated with indifference. Approximately 6,300 Arkansans served in the Korean War, which lasted from 1950 to 1953. The war pitted South Korea, backed by the United Nations, against the North, backed by the Soviet Union and China. The result was freedom for the people of South Korea. That country’s people have always been thankful for our soldiers’ efforts. In fact, the consul general of South Korea attended a recent ceremony at the Arkansas State Capitol to thank Arkansans who were veterans of the war, which he said pitted mankind against tyranny.

Arkansas and Korea have an ongoing connection. For the past 20 years, thousands of competitors, organizers, and spectators have come to Central Arkansas from across five continents for the annual World Championships Tournament of the American Taekwondo Association (ATA). Little Rock is proud to host this annual tournament, which brings new visitors to our capital city. These visitors fill our hotels and strengthen our economy even as the tournament provides a backdrop to showcase our city and our state. Members of the H.U. Lee Family have been able to leave a memorable legacy to ATA’s late founder while sharing the spirit of Songahm Taekwondo and South Korean culture through the building of the H.U. Lee Gate and Garden in Little Rock.

Four hundred sixty-one Arkansans lost their lives in the Korean War. Their names are engraved on a memorial in Little Rock’s MacArthur Park. It is one of the most impressive Korean War memorials in the United States. And in a remarkable, unique show of gratitude, most of the money for the memorial’s construction came from South Korea to honor the veterans who fought and died for the freedom of others.

These soldiers and their families paid the ultimate price - the same price paid by all soldiers who lose their lives in battle. The six Arkansans who received the Congressional Medal of Honor in the Korean War received the same award given in any war to soldiers deserving of the nation’s highest military honor. And all the veterans of the Korean War deserve our recognition and respect - the same recognition and respect we pay to veterans of any of our nation’s wars.

They are not forgotten; they are not dismissed; they are not unimportant.

They are heroes.