Gerald Noland often hears the Korean War referred to as the "Forgotten War."
But the Toledoan hasn't forgotten about it. Neither has Lou Streb nor retired Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Ronald Bowman, who served during the years Americans were fighting, and dying, in Korea.
Yesterday, they were among nearly 20 members of the Korean War Veterans of Northwest Ohio who watched as the first shovel of mud was turned in the Civic Center Mall in downtown Toledo to start construction of the Korean War Memorial.
The sculpture - an aluminum rendition of a soldier's field burial, including a rifle inverted between an empty pair of combat boots, topped by a battle helmet and dog tags - will be built between the Vietnam Memorial and larger Veterans' War Memorial, which commemorates all wars.
"How many times have we stood as a color guard at the [Veterans' War Memorial] circle after a parade," asked Mr. Noland, 72, who served as an Air Force sergeant from 1951 to 1955. "Now we'll have something of our own."
More than 52,000 Americans were killed during the war, which lasted from 1950 to 1953. An additional 103,000 servicemen were wounded in battle, Judge Bowman said.
But for decades, officials refused to refer to what occurred in Korea as a war, instead referring to it as a police action or conflict. And so while students continued to study World War I and II, Korean War veterans found that few knew anything about the time they served.
That's what led veterans like Mr. Streb to form the local chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association in 1996. The group has grown to include about 125 area members.
The former Air Force air traffic controller said the group was formed not only to remember the men and women who served during the war, but to educate future generations.
"We knew, we sensed that when we mentioned the Korean War, people just scratched their heads," said Mr. Streb, 75, of Perrysburg. "It was such an important period in history."
Yesterday, local officials spoke to the small crowd of veterans, thanking them for their service and their efforts to create the memorial.
The $50,000 monument was a collaborative effort that included $20,000 pledges each from the city of Toledo and Lucas County. The remaining money was raised by the veterans.
Mr. Streb said bricks engraved with veterans' names will surround the memorial, although details are not finalized.
U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) called the memorial a tribute to not only those who were injured or died in the Korean War, but to those men sitting before her yesterday, many dressed in the bright-blue colors of the Korean War Veteran Association.
Mayor Jack Ford, Toledo City Council President Louis Escobar, and Tina Skeldon Wozniak, president of the Lucas County commissioners, also thanked the veterans for their service and lauded the memorial as a long time coming.
But it was the words of Judge Bowman, a retired Ohio Army National Guard major general, that brought applause from the elderly hands of those in attendance.
"Well, ladies and gentlemen," he said, "we did it."
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