WASHINGTON (AP) – Vice President Richard Cheney led a July 25 tribute when South Korea presented service medals to American veterans of the Korean War. Twenty-five veterans or their survivors were among the first to receive the award, which is being made available to millions of veterans on the 50th anniversary of that conflict.
Maj. Gen. Moon Young Han, defense attaché at the South Korean Embassy here, presented the service medals — each attached to a bright red ribbon.
Cheney, speaking at a ceremony organized by the Department of Veterans Affairs, called the recognition overdue. He said the Korean conflict has often been called a forgotten war and that its veterans “have seldom received the attention they really deserve.”
The vice president noted that more than 36,000 Americans were killed in the conflict, which began when North Korea invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950.
The significance of the war is made clear, Cheney said, by the contrast between North and South Korea a half-century later. North Korea is “the scene of merciless oppression,” he said, “while South Korea is an economically prosperous democracy.
The vice president restated the “unbreakable” U.S. commitment to maintain U.S. combat troops in South Korea as a safeguard against any renewed aggression by the north.
The medals were originally offered by South Korea in 1951. U.S. law at the time barred American service members from wearing medals issued by foreign governments. The law was changed in 1954 but by then most Americans who had served in Korea had returned home.
The medals are being offered again on the 50th anniversary of the conflict and eligible veterans are being asked to apply for them cost free. A certificate of appreciation from the Department of Veterans Affairs and a commemorative coin from the Defense Department also will be presented.
Those receiving the awards on Thursday were all drawn from the ranks of present and former VA employees, their families, and friends.
Some 1.8 million Americans served in the Korean combat zone between the beginning of hostilities and the signing of the armistice.