EVENDALE, Ohio (AP) — Korean War veterans around the country had something extra to celebrate Friday as they marked the 65th anniversary of the armistice that ended combat.
At the southern tip of Manhattan in New York City, veterans gathered at a ceremony to hear from former Rep. Charles Rangel and South Korean Ambassador Hyo-Sung Park.
An honor guard presented the American flag and played taps to honor soldiers killed in the conflict.
The veterans who attended said they were thankful for the acknowledgement of their service, something they felt was lacking for a long time.
“When we came home, we had no parade,” said Sal Scarlato, who served in Korea and is now the president of the Korean War Veterans Association of New York. “We got discharged, we went to work.”
In Ohio, more than 70 veterans from all military branches gathered at the GE Aviation plant in the Cincinnati suburb of Evendale to commemorate the July 27, 1953, cease-fire. They were delighted at news that a U.S. military plane made a rare trip into North Korea to retrieve 55 cases of what are believed to be remains of their fallen American comrades.
Navy veteran Robert Jacobs, 89, called it “a marvelous thing.”
Veterans said they hope the remains, once identified, will help families at least have closure from the loss of loved ones, with military burials and conferring of service awards.
At the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas, United Nations Command honor guards held flags on Friday during a commemorative ceremony.
North Korea held a light show and a mass dance as part of its commemoration of the war’s end, which the country celebrates as the day of “victory in the fatherland liberation war.”
The return of the remains was the latest in a year of major developments in U.S.-North Korea relations including a summit meeting. President Donald Trump thanked North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for “fulfilling a promise” from their June meeting in Singapore.
“The Koreans, the North Koreans anyway, are hard to deal with, as previous presidents have found out,” said Air Force veteran Paul Coyne, 86. “So I think he’s trying, and that’s all you can do in that situation. Let’s hope it works.”
Jacobs praised Trump as “a fantastic president” who’s doing the smart thing by talking to U.S. adversaries in an effort to gain a permanent peace agreement.
“The war between the North and the South will go on for many years,” Jacobs said. “But at least they’re talking … And eventually, maybe not in my lifetime, they’ll get together and have a united Korea.”
William Becker, 91, a Navy veteran, also praised Trump’s efforts, saying it’s important to have talks that could lead to peace, including between the Koreas.
“They’re all Koreans,” Becker said. “Just like we were when we had a Civil War, we were all Americans … And hopefully they can come to peace with each other.”
About 7,700 U.S. service members are listed as missing from the 1950-53 Korean War, and 5,300 remains are believed to still be in North Korea. The war killed millions, including 36,000 American soldiers.
“But knowing what the terrain looked like in Korea, I doubt seriously if they’ll ever get every one of them back,” Jacobs said. Unfortunately … the war was terrible. They were lost, buried, nobody ever marked their graves.”
GE displayed jet engines that have powered fighter planes. The Korean War was the first to utilize jet fighters in air-to-air combat.