By Elizabeth Feeney
Photos by Lee O. Tucker
Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii (Feb. 21, 2013)
Our nation’s Korean War veterans and missing in action personnel were honored Friday during a Commemorative Stone Dedication Ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.
“It’s important to come together as allied nations who fought side-by-side more than 60 years ago and honor the sacrifice and distinction of our Korean War veterans,” said Johnie Webb, Deputy to the Commander for External Relations and Legislative Affairs at the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command.
The Hawaii-based military organization conducts global search, recovery, and laboratory operations to identify unaccounted-for Americans from past conflicts.
There are more than 2,900 Unknown burials at the cemetery, known as the “Punchbowl”, from the Korean War and World War II, and nearly 8,000 personnel still considered missing in North and South Korea.
More than 40 caskets have been exhumed since the initiative to uncover their identities began in 1984. Personnel at JPAC hope to disinter Unknowns at a faster rate as technology and research developments improve their chances for identification.
“We at JPAC are committed to honoring our fallen heroes sacrifice by bringing them home to their families,” noted Webb. “Today is a reminder of how important and noble our mission is…”
During the ceremony, the Honorable Eric K. Shinseki, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs, offered his respects to the dozens of Korean War veterans in attendance and spoke of their honorable service while fighting in Korea.
In July 1953, an armistice went into effect, “ending three years of aggression, three years of heroic defense by Korea, the U.S., and 20 other allied nations, and three years of incredible sacrifice by the people of the Republic of Korea,” said Shinseki.
The memorial stone was unveiled at the foot of the Honolulu Memorial, known to both countries as hallowed ground.
"Sixty years ago, you received the call to defend freedom and democracy of a country you never knew and people you never met," said Republic of Korea Consul General Young-kil Suh, as he thanked veterans for their service.
The stone was dedicated by the people of the Republic of Korea to honor the men and women who defended freedom and democracy.
U.S. Pacific Command leader, Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, reaffirmed the U.S. and South Korean alliance and further noted its strength over the past 60 years.
“We will continue to count on each other, to overcome threats, and to finish these tasks”, said Locklear. “As we always say, and have said for decades, Katchi Kapshida, We Go Together.”