Korean War Vets honored

Sunday, August 4th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Korean War veterans from four states gathered in Oklahoma City Saturday to remember the "forgotten war."

For veterans like Bob Engler, a twice-wounded former Army infantryman, the Korean War 50th Anniversary Regional Commemoration Ceremony brought back memories that can be tough to relive.

"You want to forget things," said Engler, of Oklahoma City. "Here we are 52 years from my time in Korea, and I still have a couple of nightmares about the war. You would like to put them aside, but they were a time in your life -- experiences you can never forget. Occasions like this, sure they'll bring back some of those memories. But this is an important day. We are remembered. We are not forgotten."

The ceremony, sponsored by the Department of Defense, brought together veterans from every service who live in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas and north Texas.

Bong-Ryull Yang, consul general for the Republic of Korea, told the veterans his country would not exist as it does today without the soldiers who fought in the Korean War.

"They are the saviors of freedom and democracy on the Korean peninsula," Yang said. "Korea now stands tall. Korea is now a full-fledged democracy. I thank you, Korean War veterans, for the sacrifices you made."

A Korean song-and-dance team provided entertainment and representatives of each branch of the military were presented with Korean War Service Medals. Most veterans said being with one another was the best part of the day.

"Even though some of these men are strangers, we all shared the same experience," Engler said. "When you go to war, you're scared. You died just as dead. You bleed just as red. You miss your loved ones. You share these feelings with different members of the military, but today is special because everybody here today is a Korean veteran."

Bill Cornelius, an Oklahoma City native and member of the Choctaw Nation, served in the 5th Air Force Advanced, gathering top-secret reconnaissance data for Air Force Intelligence.

Cornelius said that even though he did not know many of the men at the ceremony, it made him feel good just to see all the veterans gathered together.

"We're all buddies in combat," Cornelius said. "A lot of times, it brings tears to your eyes, but you're sure happy to see them."

The event was also about remembering those who died in Korea, the veterans said.

"It's important that what all of the veterans experienced will never be forgotten in our hearts, but also that we remember the veterans that didn't return," said Loren Tracy of Wichita, Kan., served in the 1st Marine Division 7th Regiment during the Korean War.

"My presence here is in remembrance of the ones that aren't able to be here," Tracy said.