On a clear, sunny California Tuesday, it felt a long way from Santa Clara to Inchon, Pork Chop Hill, or Heartbreak Ridge. But that day Congressman Mike Honda hosted a visit by the Korean Ambassador to the United States, Ahn Ho-young, to Santa Clara’s Veterans Memorial specifically to remember those sacrifices of more than half a century ago with a ceremonial wreath and a special medal recognizing American veterans of the Korean War.
In his introduction Honda noted the “scared ground where we come to remember the soldiers who have given their best,” and characterized Ambassador Ahn as “a person of heart, who has shown interest in our country and our valley.”
Anh lived up to Honda’s characterization in a heartfelt expression of thanks to the veterans who gave so much for Korea’s future.
The Korean War used to be the “forgotten war,” Anh said. But the memorial that opened last year in Washington DC – the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War -calls it the “forgotten victory.”
“The difference is just one word, but the difference is huge,” said Anh. “Koreans are very proud of what we have achieved in the last 60 years. But at the same time, without what you did 60 years ago, we would not have been able to achieve what we have today. Thank you so much for what you did.”
As a token of that thanks, Ahn personally presented a medal to each and every Korean War veteran at the event, including Santa Claran Ray Gamma and former California Congressman Pete McClosky. The medals were a gift of the POSCO steel company, which cast them from deteriorated barbed wire taken from the Korean DMZ.
“I’ve seen a large number of [veterans] memorials,” said Anh. “But Santa Clara’s Memorial really attracted my attention for its location, design, and the very thoughtful ideas behind those designs. I’m glad I could be here to pay my respects.”
“It’s an honor especially for women,” said veteran Katherine Blanton of San Jose, noting that if Korea was the “forgotten war,” women were the “forgotten veterans.” Blanton served as a Navy dental technician during the Korean War, while her husband was a medic in both Korea and Vietnam.
It’s a great honor,” said Denny Weisgerber of Milpitas, a member of the Santa Clara Veterans Memorial committee and a retired Marines gunnery sergeant who served both in Korea and Vietnam.
“The ambassador’s talk nailed it: the forgotten war and the forgotten victory. I’m fearful that all the veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan will be forgotten. But,” he added, “it’s not going to happen on my watch.”
On April 12, American Legion post 564, 2120 Walsh Ave., will have an event honoring women veterans, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.