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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Hawaii vets honor Korean War fallen

Photo galleryPhoto gallery: Korean War memorial commemoration
Video: Korean War anniversary commemorated at Punchbowl

By Kim Fassler
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Veterans and community group members wait to lay wreaths at Punchbowl's Courts of the Missing. Fifty-seven wreaths, representing years since the three-year Korean War began, were presented.

Photos by RICHARD AMBO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Korean War veteran Charles Aresta, of Nu'uanu, bows his head in prayer during the annual wreath and memorial ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

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The Korean War is sometimes called "The Forgotten War" because it is often overshadowed by World War II and the Vietnam War, but veterans are looking for ways to ensure that the conflict and their comrades are not forgotten.

"It's sort of sad, and it's personal because with any war, there's nothing pleasant about it," said Ted Miyamoto, 78, of Mililani, a member of the Korean War Veterans Association, Chapter 1.

The organization was one of seven local veterans groups that participated in the annual wreath and memorial ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl yesterday.

"We like to impress upon the public that freedom is not free ... even today, with what's going on in Iraq," Miyamoto said.

Miyamoto was stationed with the 24th Division in Japan in 1950 when his unit was sent to the Korean Peninsula.

"They told us, 'Leave everything, you'll be back before Christmas,' " he said. But when the fighting began, their division commander was soon captured and the North Korean army "just ran over all of us," he said.

"We come here to celebrate our friends, to remember the Korean War vets who were killed, and also the ones who were from Hawai'i," said Robert Alip, 77, of Kaka'ako, who also served in the 24th Division.

July 16, 1950, is still fresh in Alip's mind. On that day, U.S. forces suffered 748 casualties out of 900 men at the Kum River. Alip was awarded a Purple Heart for his service.

The Korean War Veterans Association has been using the message "Freedom is Not Free" for years, but Alip said the message is beginning to fade.

"Everywhere we're losing people speaking about 'freedom is not free,' " he said.

At the ceremony, veterans and members of community groups carefully laid 57 wreaths before the Courts of the Missing to acknowledge that 57 years have passed since the start of the war on June 25, 1950. The conflict raged for three years until a cease-fire was called on July 27, 1953.

Hundreds of people attended the event at Punchbowl Crater, many of whom were Korean and American veterans of the war.

At the end of the ceremony, amidst 28,778 names of missing military people inscribed in the Courts of the Missing, the audience shared a moment of silence for those who were prisoners of war or missing in action.