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House considers resolution to honor Korean War veterans

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The U.S. House of Representatives is considering a resolution to honor the 6.8 million Americans who served in the Korean War by adding Korean War Armistice Day, July 27, to the list of days on which the American flag is displayed at half-staff.

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The resolution (H.R. 2632) was introduced on Memorial Day by Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., a Korean War veteran. The resolution is co-sponsored by more than 40 representatives, including John Conyers, D-Mich.; and Sam Johnson, R-Texas, who are also veterans of the Korean War.

Current tensions with North Korea make the lessons and sacrifices from the Korean War pertinent. Sandwiched between World War II and Vietnam, "The Forgotten War" claimed 54,246 American casualties. Altogether, the three-year war created 4 million military and civilian casualties.

Korean War veterans will gather in Washington on July 27 to commemorate the freedom for which they fought.

The Korean War Veterans Memorial was authorized by Public Law 99-572 on Oct. 28, 1986 "...to honor members of the United States Armed Forces who served in the Korean War, particularly those who were killed in action, are still missing inaction, or were held as prisoners of war." The law established an advisory board of 12 veterans appointed by the president to coordinate all aspects of the memorial's construction. The site is located adjacent to the Lincoln Memorial directly across the reflecting pool from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The American Battle Monuments Commission managed the project and the Army Corps of Engineers provided assistance. The architect of record is Cooper Lecky Architects. President Bill Clinton and South Korean President Kim Young Sam dedicated the memorial on July 27, 1995. Since the dedication several modifications have been incorporated: a kiosk to provide shelter for National Park Service personnel and a computer system with data housing the "Honor Role," which was accessible to the public. Correcting accessibility issues and replacement of the lighting in the statuary and along the mural wall with a state-of-the-art fiber optic system were required. Reconstruction of the pool and tree grove by the National Park Service and Corps of Engineers to improve tree maintenance and operate the reflecting pool was completed in July 1999. The overall cost for the design and construction of the memorial and kiosk was $16.5 million.

There are 19 statues sculpted by Frank Gaylord of Barre, Vt., and cast by Tallix Foundries of Beacon, N.Y. They are approximately 7'3" tall, heroic scale and consist of 14 Army, three Marines, one Navy and one Air Force. They represent an ethnic cross section of America with 12 Caucasian, three African American, two Hispanic, one Asian, and one Native American.

The juniper bushes are meant to be symbolic of the rough terrain encountered in Korea, and the granite stripes of the obstacles overcome in war. The Marines in column have the helmet chin straps fastened and helmet covers. Three of the Army statues are wearing paratrooper boots and all equipment is authentic from the Korean War era (when the war started most of the equipment was World War II issue).

Three of the statues are in the woods, so if you are at the flagpole looking through the troops, you can't tell how many there are, and could be legions emerging from the woods. The statues are made of stainless steel, a reflective material that when seen in bright sunlight causes the figures to come to life. The blowing ponchos give motion to the column, so you can feel them walking up the hill with the cold winter wind at their backs, talking to one another. At nighttime the fronts of the statues are illuminated with a special white light; the finer details of the sculpture are clearly seen and the ghosts appear.

Please see your local county veterans service officer if you have any questions. You can contact your local VSO at (218) 631-7617 or by e-mail at david.anderson@co.wadena.mn.us. As always, have a great week.

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