Gov. Jay Nixon today joined Korean War veterans in Washington at a ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the armistice that ended fighting in the Korean War. More than 50 veterans of the Korean War were honored at the event. After offering remarks, Gov. Nixon placed a wreath at the Korean War Memorial in Krog Park, which honors those who served in the war. The ceremony was presented by Chapter 324 of the Korean War Veterans Association.
Below are the Governor's remarks as prepared:
Congressman Luetkemeyer; Mayor Lucy; representatives of our faithful ally, the Republic of Korea; and other distinguished guests, including all our veterans, and especially our Korean War veterans, it is a great honor to be with you today, on this, the 60th anniversary of the cease-fire that ended the Korean War.
Some six decades ago, thousands of young Missourians were returning to their homes, in farming hamlets, small towns and big cities across this very diverse state -- including towns like Washington, Pacific, Gerald, Union, Sullivan, Saint Clair and New Haven.
Through their service so many miles away, they forged an extraordinary, enduring bond. Now, well over half a century later, some of the members of that exceptional band of brothers are with us--their bond still unbroken. They are the reason we gather today.
They were young men then, many were just in their teens, when they left the Show Me State.
They journeyed halfway around the world to fight in places that, at the time, few Americans had heard of. When they came back home, many had scars from injuries that would never fully heal. Yet they considered themselves among the lucky ones, because thousands of their comrades did not return.
Back then, and over the decades that followed, these singular men did not call attention to what they had accomplished, the sacrifices they had made, the price that they and their comrades had paid.
Instead they went back to farming, took manufacturing jobs, went off to college, started careers, built businesses, and raised families. Quietly, here at home, they helped extend freedoms to all their fellow citizens, they helped build and advance the world's leading economy, and they made America the nation that we know today.
Today, the anniversary of when the fighting ended in "America's Forgotten War", we thank and honor these brave men who waged a valiant fight to extend freedom to a distant nation, and who made the world a safer place. It is incumbent upon us that we recognize these men because the utmost importance of what they accomplished is now so very clear. It is time that these brave and dedicated protectors of freedom are saluted.
The men before us, and about 2 million other Americans fought in Korea because, in 1950, a fellow Missourian -- President Harry S Truman -- vowed that the United States would not let South Korea fall in an unprovoked attack. Within the first weeks of North Korea's invasion, all but the southern tip of South Korea had been overrun.
President Truman knew that swift, decisive action had to be taken to stop aggression in Korea -- or there could be other challenges around the globe. The man from Independence knew what needed to be done -- but it was not at all clear in those first few dark months of the war that it could be done. It would take heroic, selfless action on the battlefield to accomplish this critical mission.
More than 6,000 miles from home, serving alongside our South Korean allies, the men before us today, and their fellow American servicemen, faced some of the toughest combat conditions imaginable. Throughout the peninsula, they were outnumbered by the enemy. There were human wave attacks; sweltering heat in the summer and frigid cold in the winter. Capture by the enemy could mean summary execution, and those who survived capture faced harsh conditions as prisoners of war.
As I said, they went off as young men -- just barely removed from being boys, really. But in those tough conditions, they would become battle-hardened veterans. Together, this band of brothers represents the American ideal of the citizen-soldier: teachers, carpenters, factory workers, and mechanics who, when called to duty, willingly put aside the tools of their trade to bravely confront the forces of oppression, and defend freedom.
Their bravery is undeniable. Here is the story of one of many Missouri heroes -- Medal of Honor recipient Army Private First Class Richard Wilson of Cape Girardeau. In October 1950, he was a medic -- unarmed -- in a company moving through a narrow valley, when the enemy attacked. PFC Wilson exposed himself to hostile fire as he cared for the wounded. As the company withdrew, he helped pull many of his wounded comrades to safety, determined to make sure none were left behind.
Wilson returned one last time to save another soldier -- again, under heavy fire. Two days later, his body was found lying beside the man he had gone back to protect. He had used his own body to shield that wounded man. There are many stories of such heroic and selfless action.
American servicemen fought courageously in brutal battles with names we recall still -- Pork Chop Hill, Chosin Reservoir and Bloody Ridge -- and many others without names. Tens of thousands of Americans were killed or missing in action during more than three years of fighting, with more than 100,000 wounded.
It was a terrible price, but the legacy of what these veterans accomplished is before us today in the Republic of Korea: a peaceful and stable nation; a democracy where individual freedoms are cherished; and a trusted ally that has brought prosperity to its people -- a stark contrast to the suffering that continues under the brutal dictatorship to the north.
When I led a trade mission to the Republic of Korea this March, we were warmly greeted by the citizens of a country still grateful for the United States' sacrifice and continuing alliance. For me, laying a wreath in the Missouri section of the Hall of Heroes in the Korean War Memorial in Seoul gave me as strong a feeling of patriotism as I have experienced on U.S. soil. On that memorial are the names of more than 900 Missourians who did not make it back.
Today, as I look at the faces at these men who made it back, I have the opportunity to express what we Americans feel for all who served in Korea: Thank you for your brave service to our nation and to freedom-loving people around the world. Thank you for your sacrifice and willingness to pay the price for freedom. Thank you for the example that you set for all those who followed you in service to our great nation.
Today, American men and women in uniform still serve in Korea, some at the world's most fortified border. They are linked to you, the first generation of Americans who went to Korea, by the heroic example you set, and by your common commitment to service, courage and the knowledge that freedom is not free.