The Forgotten War, it was called.
On New Year’s Day, Americans watching the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif., saw the first parade float ever sponsored by the Defense Department — a float honoring the veterans of the Korean War.
This July will mark the 60th anniversary of the armistice that locked the boundaries of the two Koreas in place, with the no man’s land known as the Demilitarized Zone the point of separation.
Fittingly, the float in Pasadena was a replica of the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. The rolling salute to Korean War veterans came after Omaha honored all Cold War-era veterans with its Cold War Victory Salute last July, including a parade downtown.
Last year, the recently identified remains of a central Iowa soldier killed during the Korean War — Army Sgt. 1st Class Edris “Eddie” Viers — were buried in his hometown of Swan. He was interred beside his parents, who died without knowing their son’s fate.
At the time, the Korean War was unpopular with many Americans wearied by the years of difficult fighting without a clear end in sight. Back then, there were no ticker tape parades or other celebrations to welcome service personnel home.
It is reassuring, then, to see the present-day salutes to Korean War veterans. And those veterans can be heartened by how the present-day contrast between the two Koreas dramatically shows how much was accomplished by preventing the communist North from overrunning the entire peninsula.
From out of the tumult of the Korean War that devastated much of the country and turned millions into refugees, South Korea has emerged as one of the world’s most impressive examples of economic success. The country also has made the transition to a vigorous democracy. It just had a presidential election and next month will have a peaceful transition of power.
North Korea, in contrast, remains a pitiful basket case of a country, mired in horrendous poverty while its political elite, armed with nuclear weaponry, hordes power, ignores the suffering of the people and indulges in provocations that threaten the stability of the region.
Add it all up, and it means this: the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who served in Korea were there for a worthy cause — one that’s validated every time South Korea holds a peaceful election or North Korea’s government demonstrates its recklessness.
Their service should never be forgotten.