PHOTOS: Long-Awaited Korean War Memorial DedicatedJune 23, 2019, 7:23 AM HST (Updated June 23, 2019, 7:26 AM)
About 200 attendees witnessed the memorial dedication to 52 Hawai‘i Island military members killed in action in the Korean War and five others who died of non-combat causes during the conflict.
The new memorial is located next to the Vietnam War Memorial at Wailoa State Recreation Area in Hilo.
The Korean War Veterans Association Big Island Chapter No. 231 worked on the memorial plan for 15 years.
Its dedication on Saturday, June 22, 2019, came three days before the 69th anniversary of the war’s start, on June 25, 1950, when an estimated 75,000 soldiers of the North Korean People’s Army crossed the 38th parallel and invaded South Korea.
The memorial was paid for by selling candy, said Chapter President Emile Wery at the event.
“We sold a helluva lot of candy,” said Wery. The dentists was all making money in Hilo.”
The veterans service organizations are the ones who “make sure these people are not forgotten,” siad Wery. “The Korean War veterans, on their own, have ensured that they will never be forgotten.”
State Rep. Richard Onishi was instrumental in helping the veterans obtain the necessary approvals from the state to build the memorial in the park.
“Many called the Korean War ‘The Forgotten War,’ but to the men and women of the Korean War Veterans Association Big Island Chapter No. 231, they never forgot,” Rep. Onishi said.
“You have completed your mission with perseverance, dignity and honor and you have made us all proud for what you have accomplished,” said Rep. Onishi.
Choon-goo Kim, Republic of Korea’s consul general to Hawai‘i, said, “The freedom and democracy they protected made a strong foundation for tremendous economic growth in my country. As some of you may have witnessed, the Republic of Korea has transformed itself from one of the poorest countries in the world into a strong, vibrant economic powerhouse.”
“The Korean War is often called ‘The Forgotten War.’ However, the Korean government and people have never forgotten and will never forget the … sacrifices of the Korean War veterans and their families.”
The consul general said Hawai‘i suffered the highest per capita casualties in the war, which ended with a cease-fire on July 27, 1953.
“In comparison to the overall population of the United States, Hawai‘i endured three times as many wounded and three-and-a-half times the total numbers of casualties,” Kim said. “Among them, 52 from the County of Hawai‘i have a permanent home now. What touched my heart most dearly is that the memorial was built by Korean War veterans themselves. … Almost 70 years after the war broke out, these veterans did not give up their fallen colleagues. For more than 10 years, they made a persistent effort to establish this memorial. I believe that such a dedication can only come from shedding sweat and blood on the battlefield together.”
“Of nationality, we are Americans and proud Americans,” said Mayor Harry Kim, the son of Korean immigrants. “But of ethnicity and of our heart, we are from our home country—and my home country is Korea,” the mayor said.
“This war is personal to me because my family lost a lot of people,” said the mayor. “The war is personal to me . I remember my mom sending her son, my brother, oldest brother to Korea. And I’m proud to say he served well, won a medal of valor for that war.”
“To all of you, we have to pledge that we do not forget this day,” said the mayor, who served as an Army combat medic during the Vietnam War. “All of us—we have to pledge that every single day of our lives, we’ll do everything we can that so this will never happen again anywhere in the world.
“This is what I ask of you — to know that war is mankind’s greatest failure,” the mayor concluded.