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When Congress established a three-year commemoration period of the Korean War's 50th anniversary, beginning in 2000, local veterans embraced the idea as a way to promote what is widely known as “the forgotten war.”
Three years later, as the commemoration period draws to a close, the vets believe they have succeeded.
“It's brought the war to the attention of more people, and it has brought out the Korean War veterans, who felt like they weren't a part of anything,” said Dan Draheim, president of the Korean War Association's northwest Ohio chapter.
Mr. Draheim and other area Korean War vets are organizing a gathering from 10 a.m to 6 p.m. Sunday at GM/UAW Family Park on Jackman Road to note the 50th anniversary of the end of the conflict.
A similar event three years ago to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the war's beginning drew more than 5,000 people.
“I think what we did [then] was helpful,” said veteran J. Ronald Bowman, a Lucas County Common Pleas Court judge who delivered the keynote address at the 2000 event. He will speak again this year.
“Combined with what is going on in Afghanistan and Iraq, it increases the awareness of these types of operations for middle America,” he said.
More than 59,000 Americans died in the 1950-53 conflict, which pushed the invading North Koreans out of South Korea. It was a conflict that produced no triumphant winner, and left its American combatants in virtual obscurity.
“When I came home, except for my buddies who I went to Libbey with, no one said anything,” Judge Bowman said.
Since then, despite some diplomatic progress between impoverished Communist North Korea, one of the world's most repressive and isolated countries, and South Korea, a democratic industrial power, the region remains volatile.
Agitated by what it has termed a U.S. threat, North Korea has been touting a nuclear capability in recent months.
To Dr. Yongjin Kang, president of the Korean Association of Greater Toledo, such actions confirm her theory that the war is not over.
Still, the tension does not diminish the significance of Sunday's commemoration.
“The Korean people have always appreciated that the American soldiers came in and lost their lives,” said Dr. Kang, who also will speak at the event.
Over the past three years, Mr. Draheim and other vets have attempted to educate as many people as possible about the Korean War. Their efforts have included programs for students at several area schools.
Also scheduled to speak at Sunday's event are U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), Toledo Mayor Jack Ford, and Sang Yoon Park, deputy general at South Korea's Chicago consulate.
The keynote speaker will be Harley Coon, the national president of the Korean War Veterans Association. He spent more than 33 months as a prisoner of war during the conflict.
The event, which is open to the public, will include war memorabilia displays; Samulnori, a Korean children's dance group; America's Pride, a singing group, and a memorial service, organizers said.