Veterans Day ceremony honors those who served in the ‘Forgotten War’


The Billy Mitchell Drill Team with the University of Florida Air Force ROTC performs during Alachua County's Annual Veterans Day Celebration at the Alachua County Veterans Memorial in Kanapaha Park in Gainesville, Fla., Monday, November 11, 2013.

Erica Brough/Gainesville Sun
Published: Monday, November 11, 2013 at 9:05 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, November 11, 2013 at 9:05 p.m.

Local veterans who fought in the "Forgotten War" weren't overlooked Monday when residents gathered at Kanapaha Park to commemorate Veterans Day.

During Alachua County's annual Veterans Day celebration, held in front of the county's "Walk Through Time" veterans memorial, local soldiers who fought in the Korean War 60 years ago were called by name as they came forward and lined up with their fellow veterans.

Congress never officially declared war in this conflict, referring to it as a police action instead, said Jim Lynch, the former director of Alachua County Veterans Services, during the tribute to Korean War veterans.

"Police action my you-know-what," he said as he stood on a small stage in front of the memorial, which includes a monument for the Korean War.

"Really," said one man in the crowd, affirming Lynch's assessment.

News about the war was minimal at the time, Lynch said. It seemed like World War II had just ended and Americans just wanted to get on with their lives.

Most veterans who fought in the Korean War returned home to little fanfare.

"Welcome home, boys, but we don't want to hear about it," he said of the way coming back to the U.S. felt for many in the military back then. The Korean War quickly became known as the Forgotten War.

"But we didn't forget about it," Lynch told the crowd as he welcomed veterans who fought in the Korean War to come forward, front-and-center, and be recognized for their service.

Among them were Bob Gasche, 88, who also served in World War II, and Eddie Thomas, an Air-Force veteran who served as an air policeman during the Korean War and oversaw a K-9 unit of German shepherds.

"We were responsible for keeping the base safe," Thomas said of himself and other air policemen who served in Korea.

He said he was glad the Korean War's reputation as the Forgotten War was brought up during the ceremony, recalling the extreme cold and other challenges veterans dealt with in Korea.

"Yeah, it wasn't recognized like it should have been," he said.

After the veterans of the so-called Forgotten War lined up together during the celebration, Lynch asked the crowd, "Have we forgotten them?"

"No," many people said loudly as everyone stood and applauded.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice, and Monday's Veterans Day festivities centered around remembering the Korean War veterans. The event kicked off as members of Sky Dive Palatka jumped out of a plane and parachuted into a field in the park.

The bleachers emptied briefly as people squeezed together on the edge of the field for a better view. Parents pointed their cellphones and cameras to the sky so they could record the airborne event while children yelled "Whoa" and pointed up at the incoming skydivers.

U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Gainesville, thanked veterans for their service during the celebration.

He gave a shoutout to past and present members of the military, saying this was their day, and told the veterans present that they're exceptional. He also thanked their families for supporting them and spoke of the American flag and its significance.

"It stands for freedom and a way of life that is second to none around the globe," he said.

The celebration concluded with a wreath-laying ceremony at the memorial, which was dedicated 20 years ago on Veterans Day and will be remodeled in time for next year's celebration, and a group rendition of "God Bless America."

The bulk of the crowd headed for the cars afterward, but some people took a little time to walk through time.

The veterans memorial, which is paved with tiles representing years of history, includes monuments to the American Revolution, World War II and the Vietnam War, among other conflicts.

But the monument people took a little longer to look at this Veterans Day was the one for the Forgotten War, stacked with bricks representing the thousands of lives that were lost.

Contact Morgan Watkins at 338-3104 or morgan.watkins@gainesville.com.

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