Honoring Korean War Veterans Is a Fight for Meaning

John F. Kennedy said: “A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but the men it honors, the men it remembers.” The year 2020 marks the 70th anniversary of the Korean War and, yet, we must ask ourselves, “Who are we honoring today?” What are we revealing about ourselves. In truth, we have overlooked, taken for granted, or forgotten those who have fought for our freedom and principles. It’s appalling, to say the least. 

Only five years after WWII, the Western world was too busy recovering to give any thought to what is happening in Korea. Afterall, it was a regional conflict that North and South Korea had to resolve on their own. Yet, more than 5.7 million Americans ended up going across the world to fight yet another war for the freedom of South Korea. Today, 1.2 million of these veterans are in the final years of their lives. And we cannot let them close their eyes for the last time before thanking them for making the world a better place.

In the US, more than 500 Korean War veterans die every day. Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, tens of thousands of these veterans are locked down in care centers, separated from their families and loved ones. This not the ending they deserved. 

But the Korea Reborn initiative will hopefully change this scenario. This commemorative package consists of a 176-page hardcover book, Korea Reborn, and feature-length documentary, The Remembered War. Its aim is to help us remember the “Forgotten War” and honor its forgotten heroes. This conflict not only gave freedom to 23 million Koreans, but provided their country the opportunity to become a world power, which it is today. They ensured that evil cannot and will not win. They did their part 70 years ago; now, it’s up to us!

Before the pandemic, Korea Reborn had been distributed to more than 300,000 Korean War veterans in all 50 states—which equates to about 25% of remaining veterans. Now, we’re in a race against time. Their act of selfless service to the Republic of Korea, as well as their own country, may have been one of the most significant legacies of their life. How meaningful will it be for them to see what they did—what they accomplished—before they pass on. 

We often honor people based on their accomplishments, job position, and wealth, but we forget precious human values such as honor, bravery, and integrity. These men and women were all those things and more. They fought a battle for humanity. Respect and gratitude are the least they deserve.

Today, we may be fighting an invisible enemy called COVID-19, but we continue our greater battle, fighting for the world to become a better place—one in which heroes will be honored and values restored. Time is short, and because of the pandemic, our opportunities are limited, but we can come together for this meaningful initiative to achieve its purpose. We can and should pay tribute to these heroes, and ensure they receive a small token of our gratitude. This small gesture will go a long way!