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Today is a good day to remember "the forgotten war."
Or was it a police action? Or a conflict?
Whatever you call it, the Korean War cost 33,000 Americans their lives. And more than 8,000 who served remain unaccounted for.
"That's a lot, David," said Don Shea of Hilton Head Plantation, commander of the 42-member Korean War Veterans of Beaufort County. "That's a lot."
It was 55 years ago today that hostilities ended in the Korean War. An armistice agreement between a United Nations force and the North Koreans and Chinese silenced what some call a cruel and inconclusive war. Most troops came home, and now are pushing 80. But to this day the 38th parallel separating repressed North Korea from free South Korea is among the most heavily guarded pieces of real estate in the world.
Bud Cowell of Hilton Head Plantation sees his service -- which resulted in two Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star -- as having immense value.
"When I left Seoul after the war, there were about 50,000 to 60,000 people living there," he said. "When I went over for the 50th anniversary of the armistice, there were about 10 million. What we did really has been helpful to them as a country."
Cowell still can look down and see a missing toenail where a bullet grazed his boot in Korea.
Mack Parsons of Sea Pines spent more than a year in a hospital recuperating from his wounds in Korea. He was one of the "Frozen Chosin" in the battle of the Chosin Reservoir. He ended up with a medical discharge from the Marine Corps.
"I promised God if he let me survive, I'd never complain about hot weather again," he said.
The lowest temperature was 36 below zero, he said, and there wasn't any such thing as housing.
Parsons never felt it was a forgotten war. But, he thinks Americans -- who hailed the return of World War II veterans with dancing in the streets -- were quiet about Korea because they were tired of war when Korea ended. He wanted to give me his 30-page collection of material on the Marines in the Korean War.
"It went on far too long and far too many people lost their lives there," said Parsons, a retired engineer who lived in warm places around the globe but still kept his pact with God.
Bob Warden of Hilton Head Plantation left Duke University to join the U.S. Army. He was 19. He was in the first Battle of Pork Chop Hill and, by happenstance, was on the first boat home after the armistice. When it was announced over a loud speaker, no one in the camp waiting to embark even cheered.
Warden sensed that not enough Americans were sharing in the war and making sacrifices. He says it's unfortunate that today some of the people making decisions about war have no concept of what it's like on the front lines.
During the 50th anniversary of the armistice, Warden went around making speeches to civic clubs and schools. He would say the war resulted in only a short shelf of history books, no great war novel, no outstanding movies, and not a single memorable song. They got "M*A*S*H" -- and silence.
Warden always would close his talks with: "All we ask for now is that that war no longer be forgotten."
If America forgets the Korean War -- how we got into it, how it was managed, how it ended -- we do so at our own peril.
David Halbertson's final book, "The Coldest Winter," tells in powerful detail countless lessons that citizens and policymakers could learn from it. Too many of the mistakes sound eerily familiar today.
Meanwhile, the museum at the Parris Island Marine Corps Recruit Depot -- where 138,000 troops trained for Korea -- has an expansive permanent exhibit on the war. The Veterans Memorial in Shelter Cove Community Park includes recognition of the Korean War.
Local men and women who answered their country's call to duty in Korea still try to help each other out. They meet for lunch on the first Tuesday of each month. And national organizations doggedly pursue the missing. Remains found recently in North Korea were identified as a Texan missing since the Battle of Unsan in 1950. He will be buried Aug. 4 in Arlington National Cemetery.
Much has changed since the fighting ended 55 years ago. But the Korean veterans will not forget their motto: "Forever Proud."