Memories of the Korean War are on display at the Idaho State Veterans Home in Boise.
One need look no farther than the homes Hall of Honor lined with black-and-white photos to read stories like that of Idahoan Dwayne Sharpen.
He hitchhiked from Challis to Twin Falls as a high school junior to enlist in the Marines. He spent more than three years as a gunners mate sailing Japanese and Korean waters.
Sandwiched between World War II and Vietnam, the Korean War, 1950-1953, was shorter than either.
It began when the communist North Korean army invaded the Republic of Korea to the south. American troops went to war on South Koreas side.
For Leonard Brown, 79, military service runs in his family. His father, born in 1896, fought in World War I; his stepson is in the National Guard.
Like many of his fellow residents, Brown enlisted when he was still in his teens.
I would have done anything to get out of Cascade, Brown quipped.
He spent most of his time on a destroyer in Wonsan Harbor on the North Korean coast.
He and his shipmates dodged bullets from Korean troops firing from a peninsula they called the turkey neck. Land was so close the Americans could see their enemies on shore and hear them shouting at the ship.
Brown and his fellow sailors spent their R and R in Tokyo the sailors delight, said Brown.
AN ONGOING REMEMBRANCE
The Idaho State Veterans Home is joining the Department of Defenses 60th Anniversary of the Korean War Commemoration Committee to remember the war.
Upcoming events at the home will have a Korean War theme, said volunteer coordinator Phil Hawkins.
Participants in the Veterans Olympics at the state home in September will wear patches in memory of the war. Korean War vets will light the Olympic torch.
Hawkins acknowledges there was ambivalence in America about the Korean War, often now called the forgotten war.
Some questioned whether America should get involved at all. The Korean War was the first major conflict conducted by the United Nations.
But politics mattered little to the Americans on the ground, risking their lives in combat, said Hawkins.
He served in Vietnam. Some of his fellow soldiers there had served in Korea.
They were great soldiers, said Hawkins.
When Brown returned home, the reaction was mixed, he said. There were no ticker-tape parades. Brown became a career military man, re-enlisting in the Air National Guard after Korea and raising his family in Boise.
The Korean War had its purpose. It had its results, Brown said.
The combat ended after a ceasefire in 1953. Korea remains divided today.
SAYING THANK YOU
On June 27, representatives from the Korean Embassy in Washington, D.C., and the Idaho Korean Association took several Korean War veterans to lunch and visited with others to thank them for their service 60 years ago.
Resident Ronald Karpinen, 78, worked as a crop duster before enlisting in the Navy at 17. He said it was an honor to have the diplomats visit.
Haekwan Chung, a counsellor at the Embassy of the Republic of Korea, toured the home, speaking quietly to several men, many in wheelchairs, a couple in hospital beds. He bent to speak to Karpinen, who is in a wheelchair.
You have served Korea, said Chung. We are prospering because of your service.
I hope we made a difference. It was hard to see it at the time, said Karpinen.
He told Chung about other American soldiers who hadnt fared as well as he did: a cousin who was killed in combat just days after landing in Korea but whose body wasnt recovered for years. A friend whose time in a prison camp made him turn to alcohol for comfort. He was a sensitive guy, said Karpinen.
The story of the war is a sad story, but your service helped us preserve our liberty, Chung said.
Thank you for thanking us, said Karpinen.
Ben Chon from the Idaho Korean Association told Karpinen that his own parents were able to escape from North to South Korea because of the aid of American soldiers.
Please remember that we havent forgotten you, said Chon.
Anna Webb: 377-6431