Carson City to honor Korean War vets

The Korean War is referred to as the forgotten war.

Fighting under the United Nations flag for the first time, troops led by the United States spent three years, from June 25, 1950, to July 27, 1953, braving freezing winters to fight much larger Chinese and Russian-supported North Korean troops. More than 54,000 Americans were killed in the Korean War.

To help people remember the Korean War, the Department of Defense is sponsoring a 50th anniversary commemorative period through July 27, 2003.

Carson City supervisors on Thursday will declare the state capital a Korean War commemorative community. For the next three years, the city is charged with hosting a minimum of three events each year to honor Korean War veterans and their families and to help people understand the Korean War and its historical impacts.

Tod Jennings, a 1976 Carson High School graduate of Reno, is spearheading the Carson City program. Jennings is working with commemorative efforts in Reno and decided Carson City needed to remember the sacrifices of Korean War veterans as well.

"It would be remiss of our state capital not to recognize those sacrifices," Jennings said. "We need to remember what those men and women did. What they went through wasn't any more or less traumatic than any other war."

Jennings said events can be simple. He envisions such things as local sports games dedicated to those who served in Korea, school education days and having memorial and veteran's day ceremonies dedicated to Korean veterans and their families.

A "community," Jennings explained, can be an organization, and organizations in Battle Mountain, Elko, Gardnerville, Las Vegas, Laughlin, Reno and Sparks are also designated as commemorative communities. Carson City will be the first government entity in the state to become a commemorative community. Organizations in Korea, England, France and Holland are also participating in the commemoration.

"The response to this has been bigger than the Department of Defense has anticipated," Jennings said.

Korean War veterans were happy to hear their sacrifice will be honored locally.

Val Jensen served in Korea in 1951 and 1952. He remembers the bitterly cold weather with American forces in nothing but summer clothes and being outnumbered most of the time by Communist forces.

"We lost about the same number of men in three years as they did in 10 years in Vietnam," Jensen said. "Korean vets came back home, went to work and just melded into society. They definitely feel forgotten.

"I think (the commemoration) is wonderful. I think, as I look at how well South Korea is doing now, that little war gave them a new lease on life. They probably would be in the same shape as North Korea now, but we gave them 50 years of freedom and development. It was a wonderful act for the whole world."

Ron Gutzman dedicated his term as local American Legion department commander to his fellow Korean War veterans as part of the commemorative effort.

"The objective is to bring to the surface that, yes, we did have a war over there," Gutzman said. "We did have some people give their lives. A lot of people have forgotten about it. People have to realize some of the sacrifices that veterans have made to protect the American lifestyle. People don't realize what freedom means until they get caught without it. Freedom is not free."

If you go:

What: Carson City Board of Supervisors meeting

When: Thursday, 8:30 a.m.

Where: the Community Center's Sierra Room, 851 E. William St.


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